Communicate regularly. Whether you are serving as a mentee for a semester-long project or are pursuing a long-term independent study under their guidance for your thesis, communicate about what is going well and what is not.
Be respectful of time and come prepared to check-in meetings. Know that both you and your mentor may have only a limited time to discuss progress, goals or other concerns. It can be helpful to prepare a short list (2-4 items) that you’d like to discuss or ask for guidance on.
Be flexible. There may be times when the original expectations you’ve set for working together on a faculty project or your independent project will no longer work. Different and possibly unforeseeable circumstances may force changes in how you communicate and how frequently you might interact. Work together to adapt your communication strategy and any next steps for your project and relationship.
Be transparent about your goals. Discuss your goals with your mentor regularly. As your goals and interests evolve, it may be important to share your evolving interests with a mentor so they can understand how they may be helpful to you. It is alright to shift interests or decide to pursue another research or other opportunity; be upfront about your intentions with your mentor if you decide to change projects or pursue another opportunity; talk through how and when you may close out your contributions on the current project; express gratitude for the experience of learning and mentorship. Though saying 'thank you' and 'goodbye' to one opportunity for another sometimes feels uncomfortable, mastering this action is integral to maintaining a positive professional relationship with past mentors.
Build a mentoring team. Keep in mind that a primary research mentor may not always provide you with the guidance you need in your academic, professional and personal journey as a college student. It’s incredibly rare for one individual to best support you in all aspects of this journey. Mentors will shift and change as your academic and professional interests evolve. While you likely will have a primary advisor for your research, it may be best to consider recruiting more than one individual to be on your team. Different mentors lend different perspectives and expertise to your research, to your career trajectory, and to your service, leadership, and employment activities outside of the classroom. A multidisciplinary and multifaceted team of mentors can best speak to these different aspects of you and your journey.
Keep in touch after a project concludes. If you had a positive experience with a mentor, be intentional about keeping in touch. Connecting with mentors acknowledges their role in your trajectory and may serve to support you in your next step, such as providing recommendation letters. Cultivating a team of advocates who may be helpful to you as you pursue different opportunities after graduation such as employment, graduate school, scholarships or awards, and more will be valuable throughout your professional life.