Friday, September 12, 2014

A nice mentor is not necessarily a good mentor

Today I wanted to do a book review, but an innocent call from a member of my postdoc lab led to a small storm of emotion and I'm a bit too jumbled up to write about anything other than my postdoc.

I'm still working through how I feel about my postdoc. It's a mix of shame, frustration, anger, and exhaustion. It didn't go how I wanted. There's a lot more I could say. Today I just want to issue a small warning to young scientists looking for somewhere to do an MSc, PhD, or a postdoc, or anyone looking for a mentor.

It's simple: a nice mentor is not necessarily a good one.

A nice person can still be too overwhelmed by other responsibilities to remember you unless you remind them that you're there. A nice person can still support you in applying for a project that they will later show little interest in. A nice person can still promise to do things for you and then drop the ball, over and over again. A nice person can still consistently put their own priorities ahead of yours.

I understand that it's hard to lead a lab, hard to be a mentor, and hard to be an academic in this day and age. I empathize, and at the same time I am angry, at them for not trying harder and at myself for taking so long to understand this simple lesson.

So there we go. A vent for me and a warning for you.

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