The One-Minute Mentor
Top Ten Tips for Mentors
- Assess your mentoring skills.
- Take an inventory of your skills that can help you identify areas of strength as well as skills that require attention.
- Take the time to reflect on how it felt to be starting out your own research professional journey. Think about the guidance that was the most helpful and less than helpful to you as you traveled your career path.
- Start out right, with goal setting. Discuss the following goals with your mentee.
- Set-up the logistical issue of when, where and how frequently to meet.
- Listen to each others’ goals and expectations. Effective goals could be narrowly related to completion of a specific research-related task or more expansive, such as regular appraisal of career progression.
- This is also an ideal time to express your goals for the next steps and a discussion of boundaries, as needed.
- Begin with the right project.
- If you are serving both as mentor and principal investigator, find the right project to build your mentee’s confidence with some early success.
- Live your professional standards.
- Essential to an effective mentoring relationship are the values of trust and respect. It is vital that you serve as a role model for high standards of professionalism.
- Keep discussions with mentee confidential so you are creating a safe place for the mentee to ask questions and discuss uncertainties, without judgment.
- Tune up your listening skills
- Resist the urge to act and make decisions for your mentee. Instead do the difficult task of listening. Stop, focus and listen.
- Ask probing questions and listen to the thoughts of a creative and highly motivated junior colleague.
- Take and interest in your mentee
- Having someone at work that cares about you as a person and encourages your development is positively correlated to productivity. Care and concern for your mentee can be the key to helping them flourish.
- Take a genuine interest in your mentee. Be aware of real-life issues that may impinge on productivity.
- Acknowledge that there are differences between you and your mentee that transcend the obvious ones of gender, age and heritage.
- See your mentee's path
- Find a dynamic balance between supporting and challenging your mentee.
- Supporting your mentee will include providing information, feedback on progress, emotional support and advocacy.
- Encourage your mentee to always set and maintain high standards of practice, encourage the risk-taking needed for exploration of innovative and creative ideas, and help your mentee develop the persistence to reach difficult goals
- Foster your mentee’s independence by making sure that they are prepared for your meetings, setting the agenda and doing the follow-up.
- Look for time to celebrate a milestone or accomplishment of your mentee.
- Provide feedback that can be heard
- Among the most difficult arts of being a mentor is providing and receiving feedback. Feedback should be mutual.
- Take time to give credit where credit is due, especially if your mentee demonstrated outstanding leadership or took the initiative in solving a difficult tasks. These are qualities worth reinforcing.
- When your mentee has some areas that need to be strengthened, carefully choose the time and place for this conversation.
- Your positive and non reactive response to a setback will help your mentee develop their own resilience and tenacity.
- Share your network
- Developing a professional network takes time and years of practice, but you can accelerate the process for your mentee by making introductions.
- Always look for opportunities to open a new door into your network; offer a seminar invitation, propose sessions at conferences that include your mentee as a speaker and consider including your mentee when attending professional meetings or informal meals with colleagues.
- Enjoy the mentoring ride
- Mentoring is one of the joys of academic life. Savor being proud of your mentees and remember that your mentees may turn out to be very special, life-long colleagues.
Individual Development Plans and Other Checklists
Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are used widely by organizations from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the U.S. Coast Guard, to help individuals develop and achieve career goals. We think it’s a great tool to guide successful mentoring relationships. An IDP helps the mentor understand the mentee’s needs and the mentee identify professional goals. Mentees can send their completed IDP to their mentor prior to their meeting to make the most of their meeting time.
Also, be sure to visit the Peer Mentoring Checklist.
For examples of different individual development plans and other checklists, go to Faculty Mentoring at the University of California, San Francisco (UCFS): http://ctsi.ucsf.edu/training/mdp-seminar1-meeting.