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Argonne’s Mentoring Blog provides opportunities for laboratory employees to discuss mentoring strategies and ideas with one another and enables employees to provide feedback and opinions on a variety of topics.

It’s the 4th Quarter. What’s Your Game Plan?

The fourth quarter of the fiscal year can bring many challenges. You may find yourself working feverishly to finish program deliverables or finalize budget requests. Supervisors may be thinking ahead to performance discussions with employees. Postdocs are gearing up for the academic search season. For mentors and supervisors, this is also a prime time for writing letters of recommendation. Parents may be saying goodbye to children as they head off to college or school for the first time.

While the fall can bring a sense of relaxation with the change in colors and cool breezes, managing all of the year-end tasks can be stressful. Now is the time to be reaching out to mentors, supervisors and colleagues to make sure you stay on track.

One question I often hear from staff and postdocs who are new to mentoring is, “What should we talk about?” While there is no one right answer to this question, here are some tips that may help get the conversation going.

  • Are you skittish about advocating for yourself? (Don’t worry, most of us are.) Not sure how to articulate your strengths? Ask a trusted colleague or friend to re-write your resume. What would they say about you? Second opinions can be a valuable tool in answering the question, “What are your strengths?”
  • Stuck on a research problem? Ask your mentor to meet for coffee or lunch and talk it out. Just having a sounding board can generate new ideas and lead to breakthroughs.
  • Nervous about your performance discussion? Practice with a friend.
  • Are you a supervisor who will be having performance discussions with employees for the first time? Not sure where to start? Ask a more experienced colleague for advice.
  • Applying for a faculty position and want some insider tips? Peruse the Postdoc Blog for articles featuring alumni, guest columns from academics and other resources.
  • Are you supervising or mentoring a postdocs and want to equip yourself with resources to point them in the right direction? Check out the resources on the Postdoctoral Program Website.

Think about your immediate needs and your long-term goals. Think about who in your network is best poised to maximize success. Prioritize topics for discussion and take that first step. Which reminds me, Argonne is a remarkably scenic campus. Why not take that first step outside?