Just like mentoring in the classroom, mentoring does not have to formal or scheduled. Throughout my career, I have started a number of mentoring groups for women both in graduate school and as a professor. These can be very helpful, but I think I have had the most impact and success mentoring on the fly. Here are some examples of what I mean.
Whenever I pass a WomanGraduateStudentOfScience in the hall or stairwell, I ask them how they are doing, how their research is going, if they are writing papers, and what the next step is for them in their research or their careers. These casual mentoring activities do not have lasting impacts, but they show you care. Several of these students have turned to me when bigger issues have arisen in their careers.
I have a group of peer and near-peer colleagues in a variety of science departments on campus. I try to call them for lunch or meet them in the student center lunch room often to strategize about
Conferences are a time to see people from afar who you might not talk to usually. I always make sure to connect with any SeniorWomenOfScience mentors I have made over the years by having a lunch or dinner with them. I also connect with my broader peer-mentoring network to talk with others at the same stage as myself to exchange ideas of problem solving.
Small conferences, like Gordon Research Conferences, are another good place to do some on the fly mentoring. This can come through having lunch with graduate students and postdocs and having informal talks. Many of these conferences have open times in the afternoons. I once used that time to set up a meeting to mentor women at the conference. Several professors, women and men, came to offer their advice to the young women of the conference. We had over 20 people there from a 100-person conference. It was quite successful, and a number of women came out feeling like they knew better strategies than when they went in.
Do people have other example of mentoring on the fly? Comment or send a guest post.