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Early Career Mentorship Experiences?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Therapist4Chnge, May 15, 2014.

  1. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences with early career mentorship…whether it be a Jr. / Sr. within your dept, within your institution, Sr. colleague located elsewhere, with a non-psychologist, etc. I'm "in the market" to identify multiple mentors (primarily research and administration), and thought I'd kick around some of the pitfalls, attributes, and nuggets of wisdom when trying to find a good fit.
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  3. erg923

    erg923 Regional Clinical Officer, Cenpatico National 10+ Year Member

    Apr 6, 2007
    Louisville, KY
    Never trust anyone over 30.

    Holden C.
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  4. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    I have and have had many mentors ranging from "more generous than I could ever have imagined" to "this guy is stealing someone's air".


    1) often, the ones who are offering mentorship have little to offer and are using the relationship to enhance their narcissism. I have never found a way out of this, without engaging some narcissistic rage. Yes, I realize the irony in putting this statement in some advice.

    2) While your mentor is there is help you, this is motivated by a string of emotional reasons. Be wary, and assess what those are.

    3) IME, there was a pull try to get in several opportunities that the mentor had created for him/herself and mentioned in passing. Like when friends order pizza in college, if you didn't chip in; it's bad form to ask if you can get in on that.

    4) Due to the power differential, there is some paternalism/materalism. You are younger, asking for advice. They are going to talk to you like someone who needs advice.
    Managing the transference is difficult. You want to be Freud or Ellis, not Ferenzi or Maultsby.

    5) No matter how big of a name they are, the person is still just a guy (or girl version of that). Managing social interactions as peers is also difficult due to transferences, difference in life stations, etc.
    A) I had regularly scheduled dinner parties with colleagues 30 years my senior. PsyDr's GF did not like that one bit.
    B) Several people I respect have made very "blue" comments to me.

    6) You have to sit through a lot of stories. Some pointless, some on point.

    7) They will expect you to know about them.

    1) IME, looking at the mentor for personality characteristics and the mentor's lifestyle are very important. I.e., Find someone who lives how you would want to live in 30 years, and go after that.

    Nuggets of Wisdom:

    1) The neuropsych field is incredibly small and produces a lot of gossip. Be very careful what you say to ANYONE and what company you keep.

    2) The ballers of the field, in research/forensic/clinical, are generally VERY busy. Respect their time by having specific questions, scenarios needing feedback, etc ready when meeting with them. While he/she is likely very nice, this is not social hour for them. Unless it is.

    3) If you cannot repay their generosity, at least acknowledge it in real heartfelt expressions.

    4) Be careful, some of these dudes are going to try to set you up with their daughters or granddaughters. It is such a bad idea.
  5. Jon Snow

    Jon Snow Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 5, 2005
    I have an officially designated mentor in my department. Mostly, he addresses research and admin development. But I've had many people that I've consider and currently consider to be mentors. I have three that I consider primary and they are people that I am publishing with and also writing grants. All three are quite senior (endowed chairs) so in a sense they aren't real good about some of the early career things and their expectations of what people should do for you. The relationships are synergistic. I'm bringing in money, publications, and ideas. They are providing advice and infrastructure that my current level doesn't really warrant. They introduce me to people, suggest activities I should consider doing, get me invited to various political events and so on. I have been extremely fortunate thus far in my career with respect to the people I have gotten to train and then work with. My position has me working w several departments. My primary dept also assigns a more junior mentor to help with tenure related issues. The person I work with is very nice but because I am in a college medicine he's not entirely aware of some of the difference in our advancement requirements. I have yet another assigned mentor in another department due to a program that I am involved in designed to promote young faculty they've designated as having potential for a certain type of career. That is geared at providing access to various training opportunities and sounding boards for reviewing things like specific aims for grant proposals. That functions as a mentored peer group (group review of grant proposals with a senior investigator who has a lot of experience on study sections). This is helpful. What I've looked for in the three guys that I've chosen is research synergy and personality match. These guys all have careers that I greatly respect. They are energetic and enthusiastic scientists with lots of ideas and they foster strong collaborative research teams where everyone eats.
    Last edited: May 16, 2014
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  6. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
  7. testifeye


    Aug 8, 2013
    I know this is really specific to VA, but I have a mentor through the AVAPL (Association of VA Psychologist Leaders) mentorship program, and I found it is an excellent fit. In my system, there are differences across regions with how national policy is implemented, and it's really useful to hear from the perspective of someone outside my local facility. We've never met in person, but in some ways, the distance and disconnect between us offers a sense of safety in my disclosures. We also set boundaries about what was private/confidential from our initial meeting, since the VA ends up being a very small place very quickly. I've mostly been using the mentorship relationship to get feedback on systems and professional development issues, as I have consultation groups (and peers) available for clinical issues.

    My mentor is useful because he offers alternative options for difficult situations I'm facing, as well as the perspective of 20+ years in the VA while I have been licensed for under two years. He's seen trends and challenges come and go. He can tell me how his region is handling a problem that might be nationwide. He's also a training director, so I think he has values that align with teaching and mentorship already.

    Even if you're not in VA, perhaps APA or other national organizations might offer similar early career mentorship programs.

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