Tips for Mentors

What to discuss

When students and new professionals initiate discussion, it usually focuses on asking their mentor about their career experiences. There may be other topics that might prove fruitful for discussion. You may want to reflect back on your school experience and identify information that would have proven useful to you back then. Other topics may concentrate on accommodation issues, client interactions, disclosing a disability, career challenges and milestones, administering psychological tests and assessments, writing for publication, the internship process, and so forth.

The purpose of the mentor relationship is to promote the mentee's professional growth. Mentors should assure that interactions with mentees comply with applicable ethical standards.

Maintain contact

Maintaining regular contact and soliciting the same will aid in developing a successful mentoring relationship. Sometimes a short sentence acknowledging receipt of a note and saying you'll be in contact later will suffice during a busy time. Plus, it will assure your mentee of future contact. You may even prompt or encourage your mentee to do the same. A quick line, such as "I haven't heard from you lately, are you very busy with school/work?" may help bridge a lag in communication.

Set expectations

 You may want to communicate with your mentee about your busy schedule, any times you will be out of town, and when you will have limited access to email. Also, you may want to let your mentee know whether your employer restricts email access and so you are limited to contacting him/her during the evening.

In a few instances in our pilot program, mentors expressed concern over the mentee expecting the mentoring program to double as a job service. It doesn't. On the other hand, you are certainly free to provide internship and job opportunities to your mentee.

What if your mentee is going through a rough time?

Academic and professional life can be very stressful for some individuals. Mentors, however, are not intended to serve as mental health professionals, legal professionals, or parents. Universities, colleges, and employers often provide various resources that can assist with personal issues and difficult times. If at any time the mentoring relationship is extending beyond what you are comfortable with, please feel free to forward your concerns to us. We can then address the situation by pointing your mentee to the appropriate place for assistance.

Evaluation of the program

To evaluate and improve the mentoring program, we will be asking you periodically to answer questions about the program. These questionnaires will not take up much time. Your responses are crucial in shaping the future of our program.

The primary characteristics of effective mentoring include the ability and willingness to:

  • Value the mentee as a person
  • Develop mutual trust and respect
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Listen both to what is being said and how it is being said
  • Help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction
  • Focus on the mentee's development, and resist the urge to produce a clone

Tips for Mentors were developed with the aid of the following resources:

Ambrose, Susan A. et al., (1997). Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Muller, Carol B., (1997). Mentoring along the Career Track in the Twenty-First Century: Mentoring and Mentors for Students. A Report Prepared for Dartmouth College.