Being a mentor

Effective mentors don’t need extensive knowledge of mentoring to be a good mentor. Rather, it is their own academic characteristics that often make them good mentors (Sambunjak, Strauss, and Marusic 2009; Straus, Johnson, Marquez, and Feldman, 2013). 

Such characteristics include honesty, a good listener, being authentic, and having a willingness to share knowledge and career experiences.

The focus of the mentor should be on the professional development of the mentee.  It isn’t telling the mentee what to do, but a willingness to ask open-ended questions of the mentee to encourage dialogue that permits the mentee to explore the many options of their questions.

Sometimes the mentor’s own experiences will help the mentee understand potential pitfalls to their own plans.  Mentors might restate concepts and discussion points when necessary to ensure an understanding of the mentee.  The mentor can provide feedback from experiences of work-life balance, navigating the academic politics of the mentee’s department, or provide emotional support during a personal crisis of the mentee. Mentors can assist in networking relationships for the mentee with leaders in their field, with introductions into organizations both within and without UMMC, with recommendations of important committee work and service, as an advocate for the mentee, and by shielding the mentee from activities that won’t advance their academic career. During discussions regarding the mentee’s goals, the mentor can help the mentee think through the academic career they pursue as an investigator, clinician educator, or clinician (Detsky and Baerlocher 2007).

As mentorship is about the academic career of the mentee, the mentee should take responsibility for meeting agendas. The mentor can assure that desired outcomes are met, that the sessions stay on track, and that the mentee achieves their goals.  The mentor also can assist the mentee by prioritizing their tasks, scholarly writing, and grant development (Haynes, Adams, and Boss 2008).

Most mentors feel that they get as much professional satisfaction from mentoring as does the mentee (Coates, 2012). A sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to develop a relationship with a trusted colleague, assisting in the academic growth of department faculty, the acquisition of new knowledge, and of identifying new research opportunities with their mentee are some of the benefits that may be achieved.