As part of my resolution to better understand my career goals and options by attending more seminars at Tufts and then sharing my experiences with you, I decided to join the Tufts Mentoring Circle Program. Here’s a brief breakdown of the program’s kickoff event, which was held on October 6th in Sackler 114.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, the mentoring circles, open to all graduate students and postdocs at Tufts, are meant to provide a social and educational experience for mentors and mentees alike, bringing together people who, based on a previously submitted survey, have similar career goals and interests. At this first event, the circles, which have an average of five or six people per group, were brought together to meet one another and discuss objectives for the year. Since on my survey I indicated a strong interest in industry, my group consists of postdocs with the same inclination and a mentor who currently works as a scientist at a prominent pharmaceutical company in Cambridge. My experience will be unique to my personal goals, as those who stated an interest in academia are grouped with other academia-bound grad students and postdocs, similarly to how those who are working towards an alternative non-academic career, like science writing, are also assigned to one another for the duration of the program.
After we introduced ourselves within our groups over pizza and salad, the organizers of the program gave a short presentation on tips and suggestions for how to have a successful circle. The importance of preparing for and attending every meeting was heavily stressed. We were also encouraged to mix up the format our meetings—instead of always just going to a coffee shop and talking, we can go to events together like symposiums, seminars, or even networking events. As someone who finds networking to be an intimidating and nerve-wracking experience, the prospect of having someone come along and act as a safety net seems fantastic and will make me more likely to attend.
After the presentation, groups were left to themselves to chat, set goals, and eat more pizza. In my group, every person had the opportunity to talk about what their dream job might entail—whereas some of the members had pretty specific career ideas, others, including myself, could only speak in broad strokes about factors like work-life balance, travel, and flexibility. The meeting was casual and fun, and it was actually a relief to hear some postdocs, even a few years out of graduate school, have undeveloped ideas about their careers and are still figuring out where they want to end up. Together, we decided on topics that we would like to discuss and goals that we would like to achieve throughout the year and we signed a “Mentoring Circle Contract” that stated the following: “We understand that each of us is responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of our shared communications, meeting regularly at the times we have agreed upon, and actively participating in circle discussions”. Though this was only our first meeting, I can tell we all have a lot to learn from one another and I am excited for the new professional and friendly circle I am now a part of! It’s like joining a club where the main project is you and your career.
Definitely keep an eye out for the program’s announcement next year, and also keep in mind that American Women in Science (AWIS) is another organization through which some of you can join a similar circle.