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  • Writer's pictureResearch Impact Enterprises [RIE]

Twelve (12) Ways To Engage, Support, and Mentor Graduate Students, Post-Undergraduates, and Postdocs


Times are changing and this means how one mentors, engages, and supports post-undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs needs to align with those changes.

For example, the number of those who have earned a doctorate in a STEM field and working in industry (42%) is now at par with those who earned a doctorate and working in the professoriate (43%). There is also evidence that suggest a similar trend is occurring in non-STEM fields. Other data indicates that seventy-five percent (75%) of doctoral candidates are now pursuing non-academic career jobs.

Combine this with the rapid acceleration of working on-line and remotely signifies that there are new expectation for what constitutes as adequate and excellent mentorship.

Provided below are twelve things that can be implemented now that can help faculty and others implement and provide 21st Century mentorship, engagement, and support for their post-undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.

Ways to Engage, Support, and Mentor for the 21st Century

1. Develop and/or work with others to develop and provide a Positive Mental Health Protocol (PMHP) for your group, lab, or center and a Voluntary Opt-In PMHP between you and your student/s and postdocs, (E.g. sleep & appetite, orientation to place and culture, positive attributes/resilience, etc.). Want to get a better understanding on navigating mental health, read the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Navigating a Mental Health Crises Document.

2. Work with your graduate students and postdocs to either co-create/develop or revise an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that is career and impact focused with at least two different pathways. One pathway for matriculation through the Academy and one for matriculating through Industry, Non-Profit, etc., with indicators for success. We suggest integrating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in your indicator success matrix.

Please note that this type of IDP is not: a standard Human Resources (HR) instrument or protocol or be used as one; an articulation of services agreement; or a behavioral modification or adjustment tool.



An important thing, especially a trend or fact that shows or identifies that one is having some progress toward an intended result. KPIs provide ways for determining strategic and operational improvement, create an analytical basis for decision making, and helps focus one's attention on what matters the most. Mainly through a process of identifying targets.


3. Show your students (or get outside help on) how to update their LinkedIn account/s so that they are viewed as a professional and not a student. Then help them use LinkedIn to connect, present ideas and research, and expand their professional network to generate new opportunities and advance their careers.

This should also be done for postdocs. However, given the unique nature of postdoctoral position and where they would like to go next to accommodate their career path - a professional may need to be hired for facilitation of an appropriate LinkedIn strategy. Pay all or at least up to half the cost to hire someone who can help your postdoc in this capacity.

4. Ensure that new graduate students immediately get acclimated to the ideation, writing, and proposal process. Support and encourage them to submit proposals for funding to at least three different entities. For those in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields have them apply for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) or National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training Fellowship.

5. Have your students and postdocs reflect, develop, and then provide to you a visual one-page summary of their Professional Identity. This is called a Professional Identity Canvas.

6. Ensure that you, your students, and postdocs understand the main differences between a mentor and a sponsor (this is not in reference to an entity or someone who provides funding). Both mentorship and sponsorship are needed to increase chances of success in academic and non-academic settings, Figure 1.

Sponsorship deals with addressing one’s changing developmental needs of mastering content to shaping context (ensuring and setting the stage for others to thrive), succeeding, and calibrating career potential (Harvard Business Review, 2014).

Figure 1: Differences between sponsors and mentors

7. Promote, support, or even pay for your students to get at least one Professional Certification and master at least one online-service skill (e.g. teaching, marketing, virtual assisting (VA)) that they can use to market themselves outside of the Academy.

For postdocs pay all or at least up to half of the cost to obtain some professional certification. For example, Lean Six Sigma certification (all of the belts) or other advanced certifications.

8. Highly encourage students and postdocs to develop or work with others to get an updated and visual appealing website that lets them showcase their identity and/or personal brand.

9. Encourage, enable, and direct your student/s to set-up and implement a communication strategy/plan for your group, lab, center, etc. Allow post-docs to help facilitate the process.

This will allow them to better grasp what it means and takes to communicate with others locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally both inside and outside of the Academy. This is also a great way for getting your research in front of a broader audience. Here is an example of a "Communication Plan".

10. If you have graduate students who are three years into a doctoral program have them develop both a Curriculum Vitae (CV) for academic jobs and a resume for applying to positions outside of the Academy. Review the CV and Resume and provide constructive feedback for both documents. This should also be done for postdocs.

11. Provide or work with others that can advise your students and postdocs on how to network online and in-person during academic and non-academic settings and events.

12. Teach, collaborate with, or find others to help your students learn about how they would start their own small business, company, or non-profit. If they would like to start a business encourage them to do so and point them in the right direction.

If as a faculty, you are contemplating whether to develop a business or initiate a start-up based upon your research, allow those postdocs who are interested to take a lead in the business or start-up development, aka starting early in the “preformation stage”.

Early preformation stage assumes proper documentation is starting to be put in order. For example, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s), Intellectual Property (IP) agreements, patent, or provisional patent paperwork.

For more information on how to develop out these above mentioned aspects please feel free to email us at

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