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Mentorship Alert! How to Know the Advice You Get Is Good for You.

Five Tips to Tip You Off When You Might Want to Leave Advice on the Table

one size does not fit allMentors are all about us.  Some of us rely on one or two, but most of us have serial mentors (or advisers) who help us through our careers and other parts of our life. One of the greatest challenges for the mentee is knowing when the advice of a mentor is relevant to you and your values, your goals, your style of communication.

Often we think there are secrets to success because someone else has been “successful” in one or more areas.  But they may have sacrificed in other areas to get there and this may fall short of your needs. And since each of us places varying levels of importance on the different aspects of our lives, it is critical that we take the advice we are given and weigh it carefully for ourselves in the context of our own lives.

I was and am blessed with a lifelong mentor.  Only once did he give me advice I wish I had ignored.  I was beginning research on the effects of sleep apnea on cognition in children in the mid-1980’s.   At that time there was little known about this.  I presented a paper with excellent before and after data, detailed testing and decent follow up at the Society for Ears, Nose and Throat Advances in Children.  Afterwards he gave me a very serious warning not to pursue this as it was a complex topic and controlling for all the variables would be difficult.  his research experience was legendary, so I listened and gave up this research rather reluctantly.  I delved into other scientific endeavors–ones with less scientific ambiguity.

Twenty years later, the literature on the effects of sleep apnea on cognition is growing rapidly and I remember how I knew something two decades ago, and didn’t follow my gut.   Some regrets?  Yes, but not many.  My mentor has rarely misled me, and certainly gave me the best advice he thought I needed.

So we, as mentees, have a serious responsibility to evaluate the advice that we get.  Here are 5 tips that can help you do that:

  1. Go with your gut!  Sometimes you just know something is right, even when others are less supportive.  If you don’t feel, deep down, that the advice is right for you, reconsider carefully.
  2. Think about your goals very carefully.  When you receive advice that seriously interferes with your goals in any part of you life, reconsider carefully.
  3. Know your core values and vision so that you can make sure the advice aligns with these.  It is very easy to take on someone else’s vision for your career advancement, but only you can know if things will fit right for you.
  4. Consider that no mentor has all the information to analyze your ideas, your knowledge, your worth.  In my case, I had gained more expertise in this area, and although I might have not known the “political” implications of my work, I knew it was solid science.  Many mentors and advisers are older than we are, as mentee, and their point of view may be enmeshed in the thought processes that cannot “think out of the box” with fresh insights.
  5. Find someone who had the “professional chemistry” that you find energizing.  When you speak with this person about your ideas and his or hers, you should feel elated, not deflated.

Know yourself first.  Be open to new ideas, but be careful before you adopt them lock, stock and barrel.  No one has all the answers, and your responsibility is to sort out what you are advised so that you can take the right advice for you.

One Note

  1. Medical care is undergoing a revolution in the US. What we see as a Consultant is the fact that Physicians and Surgeons are at the breaking point. We all know what the traditional dangers are but what we are seeing now are the dangers from over-regulation, audits, etc.

    There is no question that when one thinks that the professional review is just way out of line that one could be in a “sham peer review”. Because of the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, this can absolutely be fatal to a career. It would be good to immediately contact one with experience in working with these problems.

    I urge doctors not to participate in organizations that we call “Physician Health Programs”. These PHP’s go by various names in the different states. These are the “Roach Motels of Medicine” where doctors go in and never come out.

    The Center for Peer Review Justice has always had our “Big Brother/Big Sister” program where there is informal or formal guidance delivered within a solid friendship.

    Our HOTLINE ( 504-621-1670 ) can be used when necessary. We urge our fellow Docs not to struggle alone.

    Richard Willner


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