Finding An Academic Mentor

Passed Your Ph.D.?

Getting your Ph.D. is a great achievement and is rightly celebrated as the end of a long hard struggle. But if you want to stay in academia, it’s only the start. For any real career, academic, industrial, business or any other field, getting a good mentor is vital if you want to progress. Mentors are coaches, helpers, wise advisors, and influential senior sponsors. The system is also used in schools, where senior pupils are coaches and mentors to more junior pupils. An article on obtaining an academic mentor is available on the Wiley Network.


Mentors have been used to guide less knowledgeable people along a chosen path for thousands of years, as mentoring is also what has been known historically as a guru/ disciple relationship. It could also be seen as what happens when a master craftsperson takes on an apprentice, which is what happened in the medieval guilds, where a silversmith or blacksmith or weaver had apprentices, who became journeymen then master craftsmen in their own right. In years past, apprentices often lived in their masters’ homes and were fed and housed there.


Mentoring is different from attending a training course or even a taking a long course, though there may be some of the same elements. Mentoring often allows you to follow your own desires, wishes and interests, whereas a course may have a prescribed syllabus, where you learn what someone else has decided.

Multiple Mentors

Currently, some people may have multiple mentors, not just to help them improve their craft or workmanship but also for business relationships, leadership and for improvement in many other areas. This is different from having a consultant working for you, as mentoring is often unpaid and the mentor passes skills on to you, rather than keeping their knowledge to themselves.

Imaginary Mentors

It has been suggested that you can obtain mentoring from those who are dead or not otherwise available to you by simply asking yourself “What would X do in this situation?”. So, for instance, if you wanted to progress in racing car driving, or philosopy or art, you would sit down, close your eyes and think of your favorite expert in that field. You then ask yourself what you think they would do. That could provide you with a different viewpoint or a piece of advice that could be helpful.