Although I can't find the post now (I really need to start tagging these things), you may remember that last year I was contemplating "firing" one of my mentors---for lack of interest and for generally not being very helpful at a time when I really needed his input and advice. I decided at the time to wait and see what happened, to give him another chance, and to maybe start exploring other mentoring relationships. (Jeez, this sounds a lot like dating talk, doesn't it?)
A couple of weeks ago, I had another meeting with this mentor, and it went extremely well. I had two potentially thorny areas to discuss with him, one of which was the dreaded Departmental Culture Issue, and the discussion could not have gone any better. He was sympathetic, and helpful, and encouraging. He identified things that he could do (and is now doing, to his credit). He also, on a third topic I brought up (as a pie-in-the-sky idea I'd been thinking about for a while), gave me a list of people to go talk to and encouraged me to "take this idea, run with it, and make yourself visible on this! you should be the driving force behind this!" It was an excellent meeting, and left me feeling all warm and fuzzy afterwards.
So that was good, obviously.
This of course was tempered by a not-quite-as-positive mentoring experience (same person). I was going through notes I had written to myself at the beginning of the year, and found a set of notes from a meeting with the same mentor. On this list were a set of specific things that this mentor said he would do this year to help get me on the right track towards tenure. This mentor has done a grand total of one of those things. Now, granted, the majority of the blame should fall on me here for not reminding him of what he promised to do, and I take full responsibility. But there is a part of me that's annoyed that if I hadn't noticed this, it would have just fallen by the wayside. So I guess what I'm struggling with is how much responsibility should you take for your own mentoring, and also how much "checking in" should you expect from your mentors? Clearly there's an appropriate middle ground between "mentee takes all the responsibility" and "mentor takes all the responsibility", and this middle ground should skew way more towards the mentee's end than the mentor's end. But I kind of feel like with this particular relationship, it's too far skewed in my direction, and I don't know if that's normal or not.
Finally, on a partially-related note, I've decided that I need a research mentor. Or a research buddy. I have not found an appropriate research mentor within my department, unfortunately, and so I need to look elsewhere. Partly to help keep me on track with my research (no more setbacks!!), and partly with more practical stuff (is this conference appropriate, why does this paper keep getting rejected, how do I get on this program committee). I think I need to recultivate some of my former contacts---I was good for a while keeping in touch with my research network, but to be honest the stress of last year made me want to hole up and not talk to anyone. So that's my new task for the month.