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Dissertation chairs, advisers and clinical supervisors are not always mentors too, experts say. Mentors generally have a more personal relationship with their protégés than do advisers, who usually focus more on the academic progress of a student and serve as information resources, says Tracey Revenson, PhD, a psychology professor at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York.

As such, a mentor's work goes beyond academic matters-combining academic guidance with emotional support, career advice and role modeling to help students through graduate school and their postdoctoral training, Revenson says.

"If there are career hurdles, the mentor holds hands as their protégé jumps over the hurdles," Revenson says.

In some cases, a dissertation chair, clinical supervisor or adviser may turn into a student's mentor, says mentoring researcher W. Brad Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the U.S. Naval Academy.

"A mentorship is a close relationship that has more career benefits [for students]," Johnson says. Such relationships often develop into lifelong friendships, in which mentors have an emotional investment and personal interest in the success of their protégé.

—M. DITTMANN