Why mentoring is important for biotech careers
August 22, 2019 | By Don Potochny
You have heard about the benefits of mentoring in the business world. Do the same benefits apply to professionals that work in biotech positions?
The answer might surprise you.
Mentoring Benefits for Biotech Professionals
The most important mentoring benefit for biotech professionals is being able to ask questions and in turn, receive advice on how to handle career decisions. Your mentor in the biotech industry can help you resolve difficult career decisions, such as determining the path of your education.
Here are some other reasons why mentoring is important for biotech careers.
Improve Technical Skills
Yes, your education has given you a vast arsenal of technical skills to embark of a productive career. However, you educational journey has just started. A mentor is a strong resource for improving your technical skills in a field where technical skills are a vital component of career growth.
Someone to Confide in
Biotech jobs are typically stressful occupations that leave us gasping for air as we move towards the end of a project. Having a mentor available to confide in is an important part of navigating a biotech career.
A Different Point of View
After a couple of years in a biotech position, you might fall into a routine that closes off your mind to other points of view. Having a mentor around ensures you keep your mind open to new and innovative biotech concepts.
Grow Your Professional Network
Networking is an important part of any career, but it is especially for biotech professionals that have limited exposure to other professionals in the field. A mentor can be a conduit to other biotech professionals that can offer you several different research perspectives.
You know biotech is not a field for the timid. You have to make bold decisions on how to conduct research, as well as where to go for new ideas. Your mentor will gently move you along the right research path, which should help you gain more confidence in your decision making ability.
Mentoring Proteges in the Biotechnology Field
Mentoring in the biotechnology field is not an activity that benefits just one person. Mentors also receive benefits by giving proteges help in advancing their careers. Like for other professional fields, mentoring is a team-focused approach that enhances the careers of both mentors and mentees.
Why a Mentoring Program is Important for Lab Work
Christine Pfund, who is an associate scientist in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, commented on the importance of mentoring biotech professionals that are in the early stages of their careers. “In short, good mentorship impacts who does science, how productive they are, and how satisfied they are on a science career path,” she said.
Although early-career biotech professionals bring technical skills and scientific theory into the lab, it is the presence of mentors that help them learn how to behave with the proper professional decorum. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware, Joshua Morgan summarized the importance of mentoring in a biotech lab. “Research is uniquely frustrating, and without positive mentoring, it can drive good scientists away from the lab, or worse, to ethically questionable choices.”
Establishing a Powerful Mentoring Relationship
Not everyone is cut out to be a biotech mentor. It requires a dedicated spirit to teach, as well as an infinite amount of patience to tolerate inevitable failures in performing biotech research. The first thing an effective biotech mentors does involves creating an achievable set of expectations from the beginning of a mentoring relationship. Morgan stated during an interview that honesty is vital for developing a mentoring relationship in the biotechnology field. He said mentors must be honest in the type of support they can offer, as well as determine the areas where mentees need the most professional development.
Where to Turn for Becoming an Effective Biotech Mentor
As a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded program, the National Research Mentoring Network operates to increase diversity in biomedical sciences, as well as provide a large number of online resources that are devoted to helping mentors develop their mentoring skills. In addition, the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) offers a vast collection of curriculum that trains aspiring mentors in the biotech field.
Morgan explained the importance of mentors receiving the training required to help early career biotech professionals advance their careers. “Everything is theory until you put it into practice: work with students, get feedback from them about what helps and what doesn’t, and be self-critical! If you’ve had a tough conversation with a student, ask yourself what you could have done differently. If a student isn’t learning, don’t throw up your hands and say they are unreachable, but figure out a different strategy to reach them. I think the best training is doing it and questioning yourself as you do.”