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Importance of mentorship in research careers

A recent CRUK careers event for postdocs shed light on the importance of mentors in various cancer research-related careers. Speakers shared how mentors have played a crucial role in their professional development, sparking a crucial question from an attendee: “But, how do you go about finding a mentor?”

As someone who spent 17 years in academia as a PhD student, postdoc, and project manager without a mentor, I understand the significance of having a mentor. While supervisors can be supportive, mentors offer a different level of support by leveraging their own experiences to guide and nurture personal development.

Mentors serve as sounding boards, role models, and critical friends, helping mentees recognize their strengths and navigate their path to success. A mentoring relationship should be a space for reflection and exploration, with the mentee steering conversations based on their goals. Importantly, a mentor should provide an unbiased external viewpoint, distinct from the role of a manager who may have personal development conversations but is not a mentor.

CRUK’s Women of Influence mentorship program exemplifies the benefits of cross-sector mentoring. By pairing academic researchers with businesswomen from various fields, the program offers a fresh perspective that enhances self-confidence, leadership, and decision-making skills. Outside perspectives can help researchers develop broader skillsets and excel in their careers.

Finding a mentor may seem daunting, but the rewards of a mentoring relationship are invaluable for personal and professional growth. Mentors can provide guidance, support, and insights that can shape a mentee’s career trajectory in remarkable ways.

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