A lot has been written about mentorship. In medicine, we are often assigned mentors based on our clinical or research interests. Sometimes we get guidance on how to cultivate these relationships, sometimes we don’t.
In 2013, the author and expert on gender and workplace issues wrote a book called “Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor” where she argued that in the workplace we don’t need mentors who just give us advice but we need sponsors who will pull us up, get our names out, and have our backs.
I whole-heartedly agree that everyone in medicine, especially working moms in medicine, need sponsors but I have also found that we need more than that. Over the course of my career I have found that three mentorship groups make a huge difference in my career and my life.
Here’s what I have:
1. A Sponsorship Team
I spent some time last year formally identifying sponsors and now have a team of them. This team includes people who traditionally fill the role of a mentor such as more senior faculty at my institution but also come from outside this traditional role. For example, I identified someone who has a career path that I admire and contacted him. In some settings, there is a formal process to meet with your sponsorship team as a group but often the meetings are one-on-one and casual. The key component is knowing who your sponsors are so that you can cultivate long-term relationships.
2. Peer Mentors
I can’t overestimate the value of peer mentors. A few years ago, a colleague and I started organizing monthly peer mentorship lunches where we discussed topics that were relevant to us. It was a safe environment and a huge success. The format was informal: one person picked a topic and everyone chimed in. Topics ranged from delegating tasks to staff to negotiating better pay to saying "no" when you have too much on your plate. The connections I made from this group are amazing and very valuable to me professionally and personally.
3. Outsider Mentors
I have a group of family and friends who don’t practice medicine and aren’t in academics but know me as a person. I’ve often discussed career challenges with them. For example, I have a group of college friends in different industries that gets together periodically to do life assessments. I am so close to these women and value their opinions tremendously. They are the people to whom I turn to when I need a reality check from someone outside my industry or when I am thinking about change. I find that the outside perspective helps me keep things in perspective.
That’s it! These are three (groups of) mentors who have helped me. Keeping up with these groups may sound daunting but often the maintenance of these relationships can be weaved into your lives and often they bring tremendous value to your career.