Mentoring prepares the next generation of leaders and is part of the climate of success. Mentors introduce you to the dimensions of academic medicine and provide guidance on career development; i.e., research skills and resources, academic tracks for promotion, professional networking, and/or work/life issues. You share responsibility for your career development.
- Ask yourself – What are my goals? How can a mentor assist me in meeting these goals?
- You are encouraged to take the initiative. Introduce yourself by phone, brief letter or email.
- Invite a meeting and suggest potential topics. Agree on confidentiality and no-fault termination.
- Ask your mentor for his or her CV and ask to identify key steps in his/her career path that seem valuable. Update your own CV.
- Let your mentor know your professional goals and work together to develop steps (funding, manuscripts, and courses) to reach these goals, with a timeline.
- Either member can initiate a meeting; do not wait for your mentor. The extent of interaction can range from brief email, phone, “check-in” to lengthy follow up. Determine frequency of meetings. This will vary based on needs of individuals, but often occurs once each month or two.
- Suggest potential topics for future meetings, such as meeting set goals, time management, work/life balance, negotiation, manuscript completion, etc.
- Consider skill sets needed and additional mentors:
- What skills do I need to learn or improve?
- What do I want to change about my work style?
- What professional networks are important?
- Establish your own checklist for follow up. Keep an ongoing portfolio of activities, works in progress, and check your timeline.
- Reevaluate mentoring agreement at least annually.
Mentors expect that junior faculty will:
- Meet or make contact in accordance with agreement.
- Formulate short – and long-term goals.
- Respect and accept gender, racial/ethnic, and other differences.
- Ask for advice and listen thoughtfully.
- Keep confidences.
- Follow through on commitments.
- Discuss issues openly and be clear on expectations.
- Try to maintain relationship for at least one year.
Choosing mentors creates a strong basis for your professional growth, and so being active in the process is a good starting point. It is important that mentors have time and are successful at their level.
Prospective mentors should have a “track record,” such that past trainees are successful in their own lives. At least one mentor should be in your field of research, who shares your goals and can support your research with critical feedback and resources.
By asking for advice and welcoming constructive criticism, you create a dynamic relationship. It is not always safe to assume that advice will be offered if it is not solicited. Accepting challenges willingly suggests a desire to progress. As the mentoring relationship progresses, it will be easier to be more specific in your requests.
As part of your responsibility, you should stimulate and engage your mentor with articles and discussions on research. An eagerness to learn and respect for your mentor are solid platforms for growth. If your interests cross disciplines, it will be useful to seek advice from someone who successfully bridged these fields and who will encourage your vision.
Even if your initial reaction to a mentor’s advice is skeptical, you should still consider it seriously. While it may seem irrelevant at the time, often the advice will become an important opportunity for you.
Assess your competence as a teacher, educational administrator, or researcher.
Assess/define career goals and your current relationship to them. Consider examples such as
- To be a successful clerkship director, educational administrator or researcher.
- To obtain funding for research (investigative, basic lab or clinical; clinical care or education).
- To achieve national recognition as an innovative ____________________
- Determine which career aspects need refining.
- Determine how to document your achievements.
- Identify specific questions pertaining to the kinds of help you think you need.
- Determine the personal and professional qualities you would desire or value in a mentor.
- Look for someone who has existing focuses and interests that match your own.
- Immerse yourself in the network of your institution and national organization.
- Ask peers, chairpersons, and the faculty development office at your institution for recommendations on those who have established success in your area of interest.
- Explain why you are approaching someone as a potential mentor.
- Explain your career goals and your current relationship to those goals.
- Explain your current academic role and what you think you might need in terms of advice and guidance.
- Recognize and appreciate a potential mentor’s time and energy.
Source: Farrell et al – Mentoring for Clinician-Educator – Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Dec., 11 (12) 1346-50
A mentor should be a consummate professional, who:
- Is a role model in activities associated with being a scientist – research, collaborating, teaching, reading the literature, writing and presenting
- Engages the mentee in level-appropriate activities, easing the mentee into the research process
- Understands the importance of networking and helps the mentee build his or her own network
- Models the highest ethical standards
- Works to guide an individual toward independence and career success
- A good listener – attentive, perceptive, unbiased, and diplomatic
- Accessible and available – willing to get to know the mentee and keep in touch, understanding that the frequency depends on the mentee’s needs
- Sensitive to diversity – aware of differences such as physical disability, gender, culture, or life circumstances that may require special accommodations; aware of campus and local support groups that can help the mentee; and aware of one’s own limits in dealing with diversity issues
- A team player – receptive to the mentee’s need for other mentors
- A character builder – providing the mentee with an honest assessment of his or her strengths and weaknesses and helping the mentee acquire the confidence and tools to function in the competitive world of science.
– Adapted from presentation by Tuajuanda Jordan, Xavier University of Louisiana