3 Mentoring Tips from Erika Camacho

Tip #1: Learn about your students’ needs

  • Take a look at the demographic data that your campus collects about students, talk to your students, and/or visit student services staff who often have a pulse of students’ needs and concerns.
  • Having done some research, consider how your mentoring could adapt to fit students’ needs. For example, Dr. Camacho cites her own process of learning best practices in mentoring at both her previous institution, Loyola Marymount University, and her current institution, Arizona State University: “A lot of our students are low-income students, first-generation college students, are working full time, and many of them are actually continuing students that for some reason didn’t go on to college and now they have gone back to college. So, for them, they’re balancing their personal life and their career, and [their personal lives and careers] depend on each other and they’re integrated. And you cannot separate them. So when I give them advice about their personal life, it’s also giving them advice about their career.”
  • While it can be difficult to navigate the emotional labor of mentoring, it is also important that mentoring be culturally responsible and relevant. Providing advice to students about their careers may need to be situated within students’ other responsibilities, including family concerns that could, for example, limit how far a student can move for a job or graduate school.

Professor Erika Camacho

Tip #2: Consider market factors affecting opportunities for your mentees

  • Camacho spoke of the responsibility she feels to tell her students about their opportunities in industry given the state of the academic job market. And, she goes further to try to understand the conditions that have funneled PhD graduates into adjunct positions.
  • Beyond familial responsibilities, consider “other” structural factors that play into your mentees’ decisions, including systemic issues that shape opportunities. The overabundance of PhDs seeking tenure track positions, the trend at universities and colleges toward relying on a contingent teaching force, and a decline in government funding, among other factors, have limited opportunities for the more recent generation of scholars.

Tip #3: Seek out more than one mentor (for mentees)

  • One of the central pieces of advice Dr. Camacho says she would impart to a younger version of herself is have more than one mentor. She expands: “You should always have five or six people that you [can] ask the same question…then you go back and reflect on who you are, what are your strengths, what are your goals, and from those advising you, which ones are in line with who you are and who you want to be and you take [that advice].”
  • Inherent in Dr. Camacho’s advice to have more than one mentor is the responsibility of the mentee in the mentee-mentor relationship. Seek out different kinds of mentors, including those who are familiar with aspects of your profile outside of research, like your interest in teaching, public science education, and/or nonprofit work, as well as any consulting work you have done. By reaching out to multiple mentors who are aware of your multifaceted interests, the advice you receive will be more tailored and the perspectives more diverse. With some introspection and assessment of the advice received, you will be on your way to shaping your career path.
  • Not sure how to seek out mentors? Navigate over to our library and stream the “Tips to Expand Your Professional Network” webinar by Sloan Scholar PhD, Kermin Martinez-Hernandez.
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