Your academic tour guide: a.k.a the mentor

“I don’t know how academia works.”

This week I met a new mentee through a university-wide mentoring scheme.

We are from completely different faculties, departments and fields and I think this kind of interdisciplinary mentoring is fantastic.  It fosters complete honesty by both parties and in my case has meant I am exploring a new area of the university I would never have had reason to venture.

The mentoring ‘ship’ analogy is well versed but I do not fare well on the water; at all…

“worse things happen at sea.”

In my role as a mentor I’d rather view myself as a tour guide.  There are lots of tour guides and you select one that suits your needs, one that listens to your aims and goals.  One that guides and advises you of local customs, one that speaks the local lingo and one that can introduce you to the locals.  Both you and your tour guide must ask the right questions and listen carefully to each other if you want to visit sites that match your interests.  A tour guide will journey with you between site A and site B, but what you get up to and get out of site A and site B is down to you.


You will share experiences and different perspectives but like any other relationship, it can be lousy.  The most likely explanation is BOTH parties not communicating clear expectations at the very beginning and not asking effective questions.


I hope I can effectively guide my new mentee around their chosen academic sites.  My tip?  Being a tour guide improves my personal, communication and leadership skills, helps me to develop management qualities and increases my confidence.  Most importantly of all, helping students and colleagues achieve their aims, no matter how small, is tremendously fulfilling.

Please, go and find your tour guide or tourist today!

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