As a graduate student, it is important both to gain experience mentoring others and to cultivate mentoring relationships that support your own professional development and career aspirations. Seeking out and developing productive mentoring relationships with faculty can help you complete program requirements in a timely manner with the support you need and develop the skills you need to be competitive when applying for positions in and beyond the academy. Gaining experience in mentoring undergraduate students will cultivate your techniques for mentoring others; these skills will be useful in any future career that involves guiding the work of others.

Steps You Can Take

Explore Opportunities for Formal and Informal Mentoring of Undergraduates

Mentoring an undergraduate or group of undergraduates will help you cultivate skills that are widely applicable both in and outside of academia. Most graduate students will mentor undergraduate students through teaching during their work as Graduate Student Instructors, but the University and various departments also offer a number of other opportunities for graduate students to mentor undergraduates.

You may begin by inquiring in your department about whether there are opportunities for you to mentor undergraduates in research or more generally. For example, many departments provide the opportunity to work with undergraduate research assistants on faculty or graduate student projects, to mentor undergraduates in their own research, or to work with undergraduates in other types of mentoring relationships. A number of departments also award fellowships to graduate mentors through the Berkeley Connect program.

To find opportunities to mentor undergraduates outside of your department, you might see whether there are broader disciplinary mentoring opportunities available through professional organizations in your discipline. You will also want to explore the Graduate Division’s page on Mentoring, which outlines several graduate mentorship programs such as Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART) and Getting into Graduate School (GIGS).

Find Out about Mentoring in Your Discipline

Mentoring and being mentored in your department is an important part of your experience at Berkeley. However, there are also mentoring opportunities outside of the University that may be of particular benefit to you. Explore the websites for the central professional organizations within your discipline and see whether they may offer any mentoring programs that will either allow you to be mentored or to mentor others.

Many disciplines have journals that publish articles on mentoring within the field. Investigate which discipline-specific journals exist within your field or in fields closely related to yours that may have articles related to mentoring practices. Review these journals to get an idea of the types of research and conversations that take place within your discipline on the topics of graduate and undergraduate mentoring.

Learn about How to Create Productive Mentoring Relationships

Creating productive mentoring relationships is not always easy. Consider accessing campus resources that will help you develop your skills as both a mentor and mentee. For example, you might consider taking a workshop offered annually in the fall by the Graduate Professional Development Program that addresses how to be an effective mentor and how to get the mentoring you need as a graduate student, or enrolling in the Graduate Professional Development Program’s one-unit course on Mentoring in Higher Education (GSPDP 301), offered annually in the spring. Additionally, you might read Getting Mentored in Graduate School, the text used in the Mentoring in Higher Education course. This text includes a number of sections that outline the qualities and behaviors of good mentors and of mentored graduate students that can assist you in creating productive mentoring relationships.

Watch for posts in the Graduate Division’s monthly GradNews online newsletter, like this article on Getting the Mentoring You Need, that can help you in your dual role as mentee and mentor. Graduate students seeking academic positions should know that mentoring experience and the ability to describe how they have successfully mentored undergraduates is becoming increasingly important in the academic job search. Developing mentoring skills in graduate school will also be of great benefit to your success in careers beyond academia where mentoring junior colleagues is often an essential part of the life of a professional.

Take Steps to Find Mentors that will Support Your Professional Development

Finding the right mentors can help you to move efficiently through your graduate program and to develop the necessary skills you will need to succeed in the career of your choice. Be intentional about seeking out a mentor and establishing a productive mentoring relationship. While one of your mentors may be your dissertation chair or Principle Investigator (PI), recognize that it is important to seek out a variety of mentors to serve all of your needs.  Another way to obtain mentorship in preparing for future careers is to seek out internships, some of which build into the program professional development activities and connect you with a mentor.  Some internship opportunities are listed on the Career Center website; others may be advertised within your department.