Mentorship – The Basic Steps

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.

Mentorship – Expectations

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.

Mentorship – A Dynamic Process

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.

Source: Children's Hospital Boston Office of Faculty Development Mentoring booklets