Mentors Matter: Strategies for Selecting the Right Mentor
Steven J. Cooke and Constance M. O’Connor
Mentors have the potential to play a critical role in the development of fisheries professionals, both personally and professionally. This is particularly the case for early career professionals, where guidance and counsel from a mentor can encourage success in the short and long term (Welch 1997). Failure to find an appropriate mentor may result in a lack of support and encouragement needed to embark on a life-long career in fisheries.
So what are the characteristics of a good mentor? And how or where do you find such a mentor? Here, we tackle those two questions and provide examples from our own positive and negative experiences as mentees. More recently, we find ourselves also holding the role of mentor and are thus able to share experiences from that perspective as well. For context, Cooke has been in the professoriate since 2005 while O’Connor is a postdoctoral fellow. We preface this discussion by noting that we feel that it is entirely appropriate and encourage having multiple mentors to obtain balanced and diverse perspectives. Moreover, in the age of life-long learning, we propose that you are never too old or wise to benefit from a mentor. Although mentoring is recognized as important in fisheries (e.g., Kennedy and Roper 1990; Kohler and Wetzel 1998; Jackson 2010; Larson 2010; Lang et al. 2010; Boreman 2012; O’Connor 2012), we are unaware of any detailed accounts of what makes a good mentor in
the fisheries profession, which makes our discussion of value to early career professionals.