The Day Your Mentor Tells You…

While working on my first research project, one quote spoke directly to my heart:

“Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.” Albert Szent-Gyoryi

I had this strong feeling that I was looking at something that others have seen before me. That was: an unsolved problem. I had been working like crazy trying to find an understanding to it and at some point, I was disappointed. It was hard for me to believe there even existed a solution. After all, when you invest months of your best capacities and you see no results, it is quite expected to lose hope.

I worked for 6 months on a project and I had no results. I was walking through “The Valley of Shit”– as The Thesis Whisperer calls it. It stink. Everywhere! I kept the good advice in my mind and I was trying to go through this Valley of Shit with my head held high. I even invested in a pair of nose clippers. Yes, I couldn’t stand the stink anymore and I was looking for the quickest exit!

If you’re bravely passing through a Valley of Shit right now (no matter what you work on, what your project is about), keep reading, this will help you.


Most of all, I learnt how important a passionate mentor is.

A good mentor gives you support. They will look at the same problem as you do.

A good mentor pushes you. They will ask of you those acrobatics you know would help, but you don’t have the courage to dive in alone.

A good mentor gives you time. Baby steps (ga-ga-goo!) might be boring to them. But they will let you make those tiny steps that revolutionize your world.

A good mentor is (sometimes) strict. They know where the bar is. They will not bend it for you. You will have to reach it. They will remind you where the bar is. And they will make sure to keep you motivated because they know how important having faith is to getting a grip.

A good mentor needs answers as much as you do. They will put in their best knowledge to reach understanding.

A good mentor is passionate about the research subject/ your work. If anything, mine was! And I loved it! Their passion will be inspiration and food for your thoughts.

A good mentor is open and is willing to share with you his knowledge. They are altruistic and they want to help you take steps to success.

A good mentor shares your values. They will enrich you by offering you a model and new perspectives.

A good mentor cares about YOU. Not just your project. They will probably ask you to stay healthy to be able to give your best work. They are empathic and they will understand your struggle or your happy moments.

A good mentor is a rare gem. If you found your mentor, stick with them. You are so much richer now.

Do you have a mentor? Where did you find him/her? Is he/she a good mentor? Share with us how important your mentor is to you and why.

Are you still looking for one? What are your expectations for your mentor?

As I was saying, I was passing through a really tough patch. I finally got to where I was hoping. Truth is, I got further than I had hoped. The day my supervisor told me “We are the only ones in the world who came up with a solution to this problem”, I knew I had a mentor.

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