Authors: Candice B. Limper & Michael Harrison
Steps in Approaching a Potential Mentor
Now that we have though a few types of mentors that may help you better navigate in finding a mentor, we should consider the steps needed to take in pursuing them. There are many ways to do this and everybody (you and your potential mentors) function differently so take this guide with a grain of salt and see it as a single general method. This process will be broken down by obtaining a general background on your future mentor, coming up with an introduction, and having the follow-up conversation(s).
Your initial step in finding a mentor maybe one of the longest and most time-consuming parts with getting a clear understanding of your mentor of interest’s background. This is done generally by reviewing their research. It's beneficial to first start looking on their webpage and finding their overall expertise. If their research interest fit into a category that you may be interested in, you should further pursue into looking at some of the papers they have published. It may also be of beneficial to look up their student’s research and collaborative projects they may be affiliated with. Along with reviewing the research it will be very beneficial to review their CV. A CV is a great way to get to know how your mentor came to be. Some general items you may take away from there CV are where their priorities lean – are they focused on teaching? Is your mentor focused on publications? Is your mentor focused on research and funding? Reviewing your potential mentor’s CV will help prepare you in knowing what they may expect or need from you as their student.
Following a background of your potential mentor, it is up to you to decide whether or not they are worth continuing in pursuing – if so, it's time for you to make a formal introduction. Your initial introduction generally should be simple and to the point. Most academics are incredibly busy with research teaching and a handful of miscellaneous duties. If you’re writing an email, I encouraged you to make sure that your subject title can sum the entire email. Make sure that your email is simple and easy to read. A simple outline of an email should contain the following:
1. Introduction of yourself
2. A note on their research/expertise
3. Note a specific project or publication
3. Your desired question(s)
If they respond it's always a good idea to stay in contact. It is also great to contact their students or other colleagues to get a better idea of who they are and how your interactions with them may be. After getting a good sense of your mentor you can continue to keep in touch via phone calls, conferences, or person visits.
Subject: Potential New Student 20XX semester
Dear Dr. X:
I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to introduce myself as FIRST AND LAST NAME. I am currently beginning my X year of the X, Master of Science program at X University. I am a fellow in the X fellowship. I am scheduled to graduate at the conclusion of the 20XX semester, and I’m in search of a PhD program to begin the following fall semester, along with a research advisor. I’m going to apply to the Department at UCLA. Through my research, I have found that your expertise is in the field of X. I enjoyed reading your article on ARTICLE and I see that you have recently published XYZ. I am intrigued by your experiences, and I share a similar research interest in X. My current thesis/research project is related to the TALK ABOUT CURRENT AND PAST RESEARCH INTERESTS AND HOW
y our time. I look forward to talking to you soon. PERSON’S LAB. I have attached my curriculum vitae. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide. Thank you for your time. I look forward to talking to you soon.
FIRST AND LAST NAME