"I think that to be a successful mentee, you have to view the relationship with your mentor as a 2-way street," says Mark S. Litwin, MD, MPH.
In this interview, Mark S. Litwin, MD, MPH, shares ways that mentees can get the most out of their experience with their mentors. Litwin is professor and chair of urology at University of California, Los Angeles.
I think that to be a successful mentee, you have to view the relationship with your mentor as a 2-way street. It's not just sitting at the foot of a great physician or a great mentor and scribbling down notes and taking it in like you would on the top of some mountain. It really is about a 2-way interaction. The mentor derives benefit [and] gratification from interaction in both directions. I think that's important.
I think that the mentee always should take time to reach out. Don't just leave it to the mentor to schedule meetings or to invite the mentee for interactions, but the mentee can reach out to the mentor as well. That keeps us engaged and motivated as well.
I think that when a mentee brings up a pencil and a pad to a mentorship meeting, it says to the mentor, "I think that something you may say is going to be of value, and I want to write it down and not forget about it." I think that is motivating to the mentor as well. This mentee really is taking the relationship seriously. They really do want to get something out of out of this. That's just a little thing to do, and a lot of people do that already anyway. I think it's really important to show that interest.
I think it's important as a mentee to let the mentor see them sweat, just like I said on the other way around. Life is hard, and academics are hard. Most research grant applications that you write get rejected. You pick yourself up and pull yourself back into the saddle and write the next one. It's tough. It's hard. It's a hard life in academics in that regard.
For a mentee always to be on best behavior, and showing the best results that you may have had from your most recent analyses, or your best best best is fine, but what really enhances the relationship is to let the mentor see you sweat. Let them see you struggle. Let them understand where the challenges are, and where the successes are also, that you enjoy together, of course. But let them see you sweat.
The transcript has been edited for clarity.