There is a post up at Philosophy Smoker where 'zombie' remarks about post-doc opportunities. In a remark about the positives of their post-doc experience, zombie says "My grad program wasn't so hot on mentoring. My post doc PI was awesome as a mentor, and took that role very seriously."
That made me curious about what constitutes 'good' mentoring. I've found both of my universities thus far to have more than a few good mentors, but I'd be curious to hear about others experiences. My paradigm example of a mentor is my undergraduate advisor - Matt McCormick.
Here are some general remarks that I think made him an exceptional mentor:
(1) A good mentor takes teaching seriously. He took his job as a teacher to heart, and put a lot of work into organizing his courses and preparing his lectures. He also gave a significant amount of comments back on papers. We would turn our papers in via Google Docs, and we could expect extensive, insightful commentary on our work.
He also took class participation very seriously. As an undergraduate, I was (and still am, actually) nervous to speak up during class. After I finally did one day, I remember that after class he encouraged me to speak up more and that my comments were insightful and helpful.
(2) A good mentor is supportive of future goals. When I told him of my desire to go to graduate school, he was more than happy to help. Although he gave me a preliminary warning about the long and arduous nature of pursuing a career in academic philosophy, I managed to convince him that this is what I really wanted. He then walked me through each step, and gave me a time-line of when to take GREs, when to write personal statements, when to submit my writing sample for feedback, etc. He also amended one of his courses so that I could produce my writing sample (instead of writing shorter, less ambitious papers). We went over multiple drafts of both my writing sample and personal statement, and he helped me decide which schools to apply to.
Naturally, both of these more broad categories assume traits such as general availability/approachability and a desire to help their students. If he hadn't made himself available/approachable to students, none of this would have happened. So, my question to all of you, what in your experience makes a good mentor?