Javier García-Martínez, University of Alicante, Spain, says that choosing the right mentors and role models has a profound impact on our lives and careers, and he offers tips on how to choose the right persons for these roles.
Many choices we make affect our professional development, the people around us, and the kind of person we are. That is why Javier García-Martínez thinks it is important to have good role models. By this, he means people he admires and whose lives serve as a moral compass for him. Mentors are also very important to him. By this, he means people whose experience and personal qualities help him to make better, or at least more conscious, decisions.
To find role models, he recommends reading biographies or identifying leaders in the field. He reminds us that every person has his or her light and dark sides and that a role model, of course, never is a perfect person. It might help to identify the values that are most important to you and to look for a person as a role model who has lived by these principles. If you think about what your role model would have done in a particular situation and the answer helps you make a difficult decision, become a better person, or advance professionally, that role model is well-chosen.
Mentors should be more available than role models, more experienced, respectful, yet willing to challenge you to reach your potential. They should be generous, engaging, and active listeners, and, of course, the chemistry between mentor and mentee must be right.
Sharing his experiences, the author says that new soft skills, especially active listening, leadership, teamwork, but also a broader, more diverse, and inclusive perspective, can be developed by volunteering in an international scientific organization. This can provide an enriching experience that can open up new opportunities, and that one misses out on if only focusing on one’s work.
Javier García-Martínez ends his article with the famous quote from Isaac Newton: “I saw further because I stood on the shoulders of giants”.
- Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Your Mentors and Role Models Will Shape Your Career,
Chem. Eur. J. 2021.