EMCR Agony Aunt: too many mentors

Hamish Clarke
EMCR Pathways Editor & EMCR Forum Executive Member
Australian Academy of Science

Old style manual typewriter with blank paper inserted
EMCRs are encouraged to get in touch with their problems.

Science is the search for tentative answers. We’ll have none of that in our new column, EMCR Agony Aunt! Our advice will be rock solid, ironclad, foolproof, child proof, future proof and proof proof (for those of you hoping to undermine us with math).

We hereby call on EMCRs to get in touch with their problems, in the hope that we might together be able to work out a solution. After all, if our nation’s brightest young minds can’t help you, probably no one can.

We begin with a question about mentoring.


Dear EMCR Agony Aunt,

I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to get a mentor. My university happily has a mentoring service for ECRs, so I put my name down and they came back to me with four candidates. I met them all, they were all great, and now I’m stuck. I can’t have them all as my mentor, so I now need to ‘reject’ three awesome scientists. What have I done? How should I proceed?

Yours truly, Dr Joe Bloggs


First of all Dr Bloggs, what you heard is correct: it’s an excellent idea to get a mentor. Don’t take my word for it—founding Chair of the EMCR Forum and now Executive Director of IMNIS, Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea has written an excellent primer on the value of mentoring. I’ll wait here while you read it.

Now that we’re agreed on the benefits, how do you do it? I’ll say straight up that using a formal service as you have done is just fine and dandy. (But tell your uni that MCRs need mentors too!) However if no central service is available, or it’s not your cup of tea, then there are many other ways to set up something effectively the same as mentoring. Indeed it’s something that the EMCR Forum is looking to focus on. Don’t get hung up on titles—the point is that there are real benefits from spending time and learning from someone who’s a little further down the road than you. And they benefit from their time with you too! It’s a win–win.

Now we come to the tricky part of your letter. Setting up a shortlisting process for the mentoring position recently made available at Joe Bloggs Inc was both ingenious and ham-fisted. But you’ve made your bed—now you must have both REM and non-REM sleep in it. Get in touch with your preferred candidate and, once they’ve agreed, let the others down gently. They know that you are young and foolish and so long as you confess to your sins and beg them to remain open to you getting in touch for a coffee down the track, what’s the worst that could happen? Incidentally this is fine example of why it’s prudent not to seek mentors from within your chain of command. Just saying.

Yours scientifically,
EMCR Agony Aunt

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