Monash University’s IMNIS coordinator, Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen, shares how she prepares IMNIS mentees at her organisation for their IMNIS program through an orientation session. Priscilla says “This way students know what is expected of them and ensures they get the most out of their industry mentoring experience”. The IMNIS team works closely with the designated IMNIS coordinator at every member University to ensure mentees are fully prepared and strongly supported throughout their program. All IMNIS mentors and mentees are provided formal Guidelines by IMNIS upon enrolling in the initiative. The University Orientation strongly complements this introduction to IMNIS and we encourage all member Universities to consider implementing this approach.

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Monash University was one of the partner institutes involved in the 2015-2016 IMNIS pilot and from this initial program, as with any pilot, I learnt a lot! On reviewing the pilot and thinking about what did and didn’t work, I realised I had made lots of assumptions about student preparedness, forgetting that for many of the students chosen as mentees this is the first time that they would be attending professional networking events and interacting with high level industry leaders. These events and meetings can be a little daunting for anyone at first, but perhaps more so for graduate students. To provide the mentees with additional support, for the 2017-2018 program, I incorporated a short, 20 to 30 minute orientation session as part of the program. This took place after mentee and mentor pairing and prior to the launch event.

The Orientation session was designed, firstly to give an overview of the IMNIS program, talk to the mentees about the opportunity they had been given and allow mentees to ask any questions. In addition to this I talked to them about professionalism and the expectations of Monash University. For this blog I’ve put together the essential points covered, written as a guide to mentees.

Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen with the Monash University IMNIS mentees enrolled in Victoria’s 2017 MedTech-Pharma program with the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) [Image: A Bizzarri]

IMNIS Orientation at Monash University: a guide for IMNIS mentees
1. You are a representative of the University

Mentees have been selected and sponsored by Monash University to take part in the program. As a mentee and PhD student from Monash University you are representing the University and need to conduct yourself in a professional manner when meeting with your mentor or attending networking events.

2. Time with your mentor is valuable

All of the IMNIS mentors are high level industry leaders and extremely busy people who are volunteering their time to mentor you. As such you need to be respectful of your mentor and their time. Meeting and developing a connection with your mentor is important and mentor-mentee meetings are supposed to be informal but still professional. It is important that you reply to correspondence with your mentor in a timely manner and that you are punctual to meetings or cancel with plenty of notice if you are unable to make a meeting.
Importantly, before your first meeting it is a good idea to do a bit of research on your mentor and know a bit about them. As much as you can, prepare in advance for your meetings, with any questions or topics that you wish to discuss – what is it that you want to find out about industry, what are your career goals? Go to your meeting armed with a list of questions – what do you want to achieve from this meeting? This will allow you to maximise the time that you will have with your mentor.

3. First impressions count

Many years ago, when I was a PhD student heading off to my first post-doc one of my mentors said to me – “When you go to your postdoc you need to rethink the tracksuit pants.” Up until that time I had been oblivious to the work dress code given I was in a laboratory, wearing a lab coat for most of the day. Remember you only get one chance to make a first impression, so while active wear and casual attire is acceptable for day-to-day while at University, especially for wet-laboratory research, it doesn’t really work in a professional setting, such as meetings with industry mentors or networking events. You need to think about the image you are projecting and the impression you are making. When thinking about what to wear think about what you would wear to a job interview and dress appropriately.

4. What if things don’t work out?

IMNIS is a structured mentoring program that matches mentors and mentees based on interest areas and career goals of mentees, and the mentor’s professional experience. Although uncommon, sometimes mentee and mentor relationships don’t necessarily work out. If for any reason a mentee think it’s not working or if they have any concerns, I encourage them to contact me as the coordinator of the program at Monash University so we can talk through any issues or concerns. They can also contact their IMNIS Program Coordinator on the IMNIS team and this detail is provided in the Guidelines they receive at the start of their program.

5. Enjoy the Experience!

Monash University is a strong supporter of the IMNIS program and the benefits it can bring to our PhD students. The IMNIS program offers PhD students a unique opportunity to gain insight into industry, build professional skills and opens up networks to students that they would not otherwise have access to. One of the most important things for mentees to remember is to make the most out of the opportunity and enjoy the experience.

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About the author:

Associate Professor Priscilla Johanesen is the Director of the Biomedicine Graduate Program for the Monash Biomedical Discovery Institute and Head of Teaching and Learning for the Department of Microbiology at Monash University. Priscilla completed her PhD at Monash University before heading to the USA to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She has 20 years’ experience in teaching microbiology and molecular biology in various modalities to undergraduate and graduate students across the disciplines of science, biomedical science and medicine in both Australia and the USA. As an educator, Priscilla believes that her role is to facilitate the learning process and also to be a mentor to students both inside and outside of the classroom. In recognition of her dedication to teaching, in 2014 Priscilla was awarded the David White Excellence in Teaching Award by the Australian Society for Microbiology and in 2017 became a Fellow of the Monash Education Academy. In addition to undergraduate teaching Priscilla is a strong supporter of career development for graduate research students and from 2013-2016 led the introduction of professional development training into the doctoral program in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University. In late 2016, she was appointed as the Director of the Biomedicine Graduate Program for the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, where she currently leads the doctoral program for the institutes; close to 250 PhD students.