Mentors are essential to career journeys

By Samantha Black, PhD, The Science Advisory Board editor in chief

Regardless of your current professional status, supportive mentors are critical for helping you achieve your career goals, according to Michael Howell, PhD, chief scientific officer at DermTech. Howell recently spoke with ScienceBoard.net.

After a short tenure as a professor, Howell, an immunologist by training, decided to transition into a different role. During this period, he relied on mentors to ask him the tough questions that helped him identify the next direction in his career.

Howell suggested finding a mentor with a track record of training, someone who is committed to advancing the next generation of scientists, and who is a leader who recognizes you publicly and helps you advance your career.

"The most important part of your career is actually identifying a key mentor," Howell said.

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According to Howell, changes in life situations are inevitable and having a good mentor is very important during these seasons of your life. But he advised science professionals to not get "locked in" to any given career track of profession.

"That's one of the joys of science," Howell commented. "Science is changing on a daily basis."

There will always be other options and ways to use your scientific interests for the greater good. Mentors can advise you during times when there are tough decisions to be made. They can also open professional doors that you might not have ever known existed. For this to be true, the mentor and mentee must have an open line of communication, with honest conversations.

This is what it takes to begin to process information about yourself and help you to make the right decision for your ever-evolving career, Howell said.

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