I have been struggling since #AcWriMo ended. I got sick and I let my momentum slip. Also, I got feedback on my preliminary theoretical ideas, and I lost my direction: I was going around in circles.
I have been making little progress, and I keep wondering if I have the stamina to even finish this challenge. After all, why should I suffer when my graduation date is not until 2017. Most people in my program take six years, so really, I should be finishing by 2018. (Not a very productive thought process, I know).
And then yesterday happened: I had a meeting with my mentor.
I talked to my mentor for about 15 minutes. Not much time. But he told me exactly what I needed to hear: you slowed down; get to work, make some progress.
This was not news to me. Of course I knew I slowed down. Of course I knew I had to make progress. But he told me what I needed to do: work on the data, have the results ready. He gave me a deadline. And he also gave me the resources I needed to complete those tasks.
Why were 15 minutes with my mentor so effective?
I have had other faculty remind me of similar things over the course of my studies, but only this mentor seems to know how to say things in the way that I need to hear them.
I think that the biggest difference is that other faculty mentors try to advise me. This professor mentors me. Both are necessary, and both serve different functions.
What is the difference between advising and mentoring?
A faculty advisor is like a friendly reviewer. He or she gives up their time and energy to read your papers. They give you feedback on which ideas need more work, and sometimes even how to improve them.
A mentor is much more than that. He or she will listen to how you came up with your ideas. Then they will help you understand where the reasoning needs work. In addition, they will point you to where you can begin your search. This relationship is also more personal. They will cheer you on, or kick you into gear.
Both are important for graduate students.
I am very fortunate to have access to a great faculty advisor, and a formidable pair of mentors!