This article is part of a series authored by Dr. Christine Grant and published in Diversity in Action magazine.

What happens when the pristine white snow in your life turns into gray slush? The snow looks beautiful and fresh when it first falls, then it mixes with the reality of the world; the dirt, dust, oil and grime convert it into a gray slush.

Sometimes careers are like this: the initial excitement at the new job, a novel education opportunity or a fresh leadership position full of possibilities can change due to circumstances beyond our control. We know there’s freshness and optimism still deep inside – longing to fully manifest in our STEM careers. Successful career management requires networking and mental toughness aligned with personal style. Climbing the ladder entails a strategic balance of one’s personal and professional life to avoid time stress during different career and life transitions. As we navigate our journeys individually and collectively in STEM, it is imperative that we learn to negotiate with emotional intelligence in all facets of our lives.

Mentoring relationships are critical in the development of the aforementioned skills for STEM professionals in all realms (i.e., academia, industry, government). Throughout my career, I have benefitted as a mentee and delivered benefits as a mentor in STEM. In January, as we celebrated National Mentoring Month, I challenge you to explore the “the good, the bad, the ugly and the better” aspects of your own mentoring relationships.

There are four crucial skills needed to create a strong mentoring portfolio over your STEM lifetime:

  • Find a mentor
  • Manage a mentor
  • Transition a mentor
  • Be a mentor