Getting Off to a Good Start

At the beginning of any mentoring relationship, it’s crucial you and your mentor are completely open and honest about each other’s expectations and how evaluation of the process will be established. Not doing so can cause issues later. This will require you to take charge of the mentoring process from the very beginning. 

One of the first things you should do is establish clear expectations and boundaries during initial discussions. Identify your needs and make them known. Bring your personal goals to the mentor for discussion and possible enhancement. The more your mentor knows about your desires and needs, the more effective he or she can be in sponsoring you for activities in your department or professional organizations.

Mentoring Agreements

Having a written agreement between you and your mentor can avoid future conflicts. One of the first things the two of you should discuss is the time commitment involved. Mentorship is often for a defined period of time, commonly one year. During this timeframe, you should meet regularly. Then after the year (or time commitment chosen) ends, you can decide how you want your relationship to continue, if at all.

It is also important to include confidentiality as part of the mentoring agreement. This will allow you to seek council and discuss sensitive issues, especially those involving fellow faculty members or leaders. You should confirm there will be no direct feedback to your department chair or other leadership. Review an example of a mentoring agreement.


Both you and your mentor need to agree to fulfill common responsibilities, some of which are often listed in the mentoring agreement. These could include: