It is a very good sign in a prospective mentor if they don’t interrupt but instead allow you to talk through ideas to arrive at clarity. Try to find a mentor who shows an interest in your aspirations, capabilities and career goals.
You need to make it a priority to discover what your strengths and passions are, and you need an adviser who will help you do so.
As Johnson and Ridley tell us, affirmation is a central pillar of effective mentorship.
In fact, they urge mentors that “if you could only do one thing as a mentor, affirm your protégés.” As the alarming statistics suggest, graduate school is a depressing place, particularly for arts and humanities graduate students.
Your adviser will have an outsized influence on your professionalization and career preparation.
Even as graduate programs recalibrate in response to the abysmal tenure-track job market (by beefing up career preparation of all stripes, for example), a bad relationship with an adviser can undermine or even undo these well-intentioned efforts.
That is, in addition to discussing your seminar papers and dissertation chapters, make sure that you spend at least some of the time discussing and reworking your assignments, syllabi and other teaching documents. Time to degree matters: you want to get on with your life.
What will keep you in graduate school for far too long are the proposal and dissertation stages. Try to cultivate a relationship with an adviser that allows you to share rough work, rough ideas, jumbles of thoughts.
Advisers have reputations, and you need, for the sake of your sanity and career, to do your best to find out as much as you can about an adviser before you commit.
You’ll get a better sense of the value of this mentor’s advice and dedication by scoping out a range of voices.