Peer Fiss

USC Marshall School of Business
Peer Fiss
Photo by Steve Cohn Photography

It seems to me that much of the value of mentoring comes from spending time with someone who has already walked that path or a similar one before. One might think of this as mentoring as providing guidance and advice, and this is what typically comes to mind when thinking of mentoring. However, perhaps a more fruitful way to think about mentoring is to conceive of it as a conversation—not a one-way, but a two-way street where both parties engage and learn from each other and jointly try to figure out the path ahead. That would appear to be the most fruitful approach. To make this kind of mentoring work you need trust and mutual respect, along with experience. It also seems to me that mentoring is often a chain. I know I have benefitted tremendously from my own mentors who were generous with their time and advice, and helped me steer around some cliffs.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned from my mentors, and from my mentees, is that mentoring is much less about strategizing about careers or how to get a paper published. More importantly, it is a conversation about how to become a scholar and a teacher, and how to become a better one. That conversation is a continuous one.