The benefits of mentoring: navigating complex career paths
Mentor programs are becoming increasingly important at a time when career trajectories are becoming less well defined.
In a time when jobs aren’t necessarily straightforward and career trajectories are becoming less well defined, Angie Xiang believes mentorship is of increasing importance.
The final-year medical student, who in 2018 began a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) research degree, is part of the Sir John Monash Mentoring Program, which helps high-achieving students develop their leadership skills by pairing them with an experienced mentor.
Angie’s mentor is Kathryn Connelly, who graduated from Monash in 2013 with a Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery and a Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours) research degree. Adding to her impressive qualifications is Kathryn’s internship and physician training at the Alfred Hospital, her ongoing specialist training in rheumatology at Austin Health, and her plans to undertake a PhD in 2020. Given Angie’s studies and plans for a medical career, the two are well-matched and agree the medical field lends itself well to mentoring.
“Most of our interaction is a dialogue – it’s an exchange, a bi-directional relationship”
Kathryn says this is, in part, because people with varying levels of seniority work together in a team, learning from and supporting each other.
“Throughout my time as a medical student and as a junior doctor, I’ve benefited from the guidance and experience of more senior colleagues, and understand how valuable the perspective of someone who has ‘been through it before’ can be,” she says.
Angie concurs: “It’s also about finding someone you feel you’re having a positive learning relationship with,” she says.
Now in their second year of the mentor program, Angie and Kathryn usually meet over coffee or a bite to eat to discuss a range of career-relevant topics. Angie brings specific questions for Kathryn and they work through issues together.
“Most of our interaction is a dialogue – it’s an exchange, a bi-directional relationship,” Angie says.
For her, the program offers the opportunity to learn from someone who understands her journey; for Kathryn, it’s a way to share her experiences.
While the mentoring program has enhanced Angie’s experience as a Monash student, she says it’s not a blanket approach. “It’s dependent on what you put into it – you’ve got to meet [your mentor] halfway.”
Angie is mindful to maintain a critical mind, too, as several years have passed between Kathryn’s time at university and her own. “Things are different, so you need to be able to absorb everything, but also make the best decision for yourself ... it’s really about opening yourself up to something that may be different to your first conclusion.”
The mentorship can be beneficial to both mentee and mentor, and Kathryn says she, in turn, has learned from her interactions with Angie.
“I have a better appreciation of some of the particular challenges and topical issues that concern the next generation of young doctors who I’ll be working with and supervising in the near future,” she says.
Alumni to alumni mentoring
Monash's newest mentoring program is a flexible, easy-to-use platform that brings alumni together for informal mentoring and support on career direction and decision-making. You can be a mentor, a mentee, or both. Meetings can take place online, by phone or in person. Mentors and mentees are matched based on location, industry and career aspirations.