Making the First Contact with Your Mentor

Once you have identified a potential mentor you need to make that first contact to request a meeting. A polite, well-worded email may be sufficient, but a personal interaction—by phone or in-person (for example, at a faculty meeting or similar event)—can be more powerful. In any case, your request is likely to be more effective if you include the following:

  • Introduce yourself. Include some information about you (just one sentence) and attach your CV (make sure that it is up-to-date and in the UMMS format—see here).
  • Be specific about your need for guidance. Define how your potential mentor can help you. Do you need feedback on a grant or paper? Help with research design? Guidance on developing a curriculum?
    A more focused ask is likely to be received more positively than a vague request for mentoring.
  • Describe why you are asking this person for help. What is their relevant expertise? Do you have a colleague in common? Have they done something similar to your needs?
    Making the request personal is more likely to get attention (a little flattery doesn’t hurt either).

Remember: brief emails are best (no more than 4–5 sentences). If you are making a personal contact, you may want to practice an elevator speech.

Examples:

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology specializing in stroke. I want to develop a clinical trial on stroke treatment that is similar to the one you published last year.  Would you have time to discuss the process that you used to develop and implement your trial?

I am an Assistant Professor in General Pediatrics and will be eligible for promotion in the next year. As the FADL rep for our department, I know that you are familiar with the promotion process at UMMS. Would you be willing to review my CV and materials?

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine. I need to discuss allocation of my effort with my division chief. My colleague Dr. Jones said that you were very helpful to her in a similar situation. Would you have time to advise me?

I am an Assistant Professor in ObGyn. I’m planning to create a new fourth year elective on reproductive endocrinology. I know the content but need help with curriculum development. I saw that you had developed a similar course last year — would you have the time to advise me?

If you receive a positive response from your potential mentor, then you need to plan for the first meeting—see next step.