Why mentors need mentees too

I was having a long week. Feeling overwhelmed with a billion tasks running around in my head. And it was only Tuesday.

Every Tuesday, I have a lunch time ½ hour meeting scheduled with my mentee. Sometimes we skip a week here and there but for the most part we are pretty regular. We use the first ½ of the meeting to go over dental school applications and progress towards her goals. She is applying to the international dentist program, an extremely competitive process for foreign trained dentists to get their license to practice in North America. The second ½ of the meeting, we focus on a research grant she is helping me with.

This week, I wasn’t looking forward to our weekly Tuesday meeting. Mostly, because I was tired and feeling drained. Seeing another meeting on my calendar was draining me out even more. By some miracle, I pushed through. (Don’t we all?) And guess what, the meeting was exactly what I needed.

My mentee’s innocence and excitement about getting into dental school was a reminder of a time when I was in her shoes. I remembered being so vulnerable yet excited about getting into my dream program. I remembered how I believed that once I get into dental school, I’d be ‘gold’ for life. Of course, now that I am on the other side, I know that is not the case. Dental school is a big hurdle to accomplish but it is only the first. There are so many hurdles after that. There’s finding a great associateship, paying for high quality CE, saving for a home, buying a practice and hiring your first employee.

However, being in a position where you can give advice to someone else, reminds you of humility. It also teaches you to be kinder to yourself and be proud of how far you’ve come. Sometimes we get so busy and focused on the next big thing that we want to achieve (and the list is endless) that we forget to appreciate how hard we’ve worked all these years. And, we don’t stop to smell the roses.

There are so many roses!! Why don’t we count our blessings more often?

Investing time and effort in building up a mentee so that they can achieve their goals, can be a very important lesson for all of us. To me, it has first taught me about time management. Giving my mentee the gift of time, is the most important thing I can do. Sure, I can respond to her texts and emails but having focused one on one conversation with her gives her the greatest benefit.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Secondly, it has taught me the importance of counting my blessings. I feel more grateful for my degree and ability to practice as a dentist because I am reminded of what it was like to be an applicant and be scared about not getting into a school. Perspective is everything! Thirdly, a great mentor-mentee relationship can be very healing and teach you what is most important in life. My mentee has taught me that making an impact in her career and seeing her flourish will be one of my greatest accomplishments. Seeing her get into her dream school and later, join me in the profession as a colleague, is just as exciting for me, as it is for her.

So, if you’re feeling burnt out, or feeling directionless, try to get involved in a mentor program, Diversity in Dentistry is a great place to start, or it may be your local dental society that provides one. Get involved and really give your time and focus to that individual. You will benefit just as much as your mentee. Maybe more.

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