The Mentoring Role
The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depend on the goal(s) established at the beginning of the professional relationship. A mentor may share with a mentee (or protege) information about their own career trajectory, as well as provide direction, motivation, support, and role modeling.
A mentor may assist with exploring occupations, setting goals, developing networking connections, and identifying resources. Mentors may want to reflect on their own student experience and identify information that would have proven useful to their own professional growth during that time. The mentor role may change as the needs of the mentee change.
Mentors should assure that interactions with mentees comply with applicable ethical standards.
Alumni (mentor) and Student (mentee) applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. The duration of the formal mentoring relationship will be established once the goals form has been completed by the mentee and discussed with the mentor.
As a mentor, it is up to you to determine how many mentee's you would like to work individually with.
The mentor will work with the mentee to establish a complete by time for each of their goals. The end of the formal mentoring relationship should align with the complete by timeframe that is determined by the mentor and mentee.
Ending the Formal Mentoring Relationship
Once you have completed a mentoring relationship, please contact Billy Ratz (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Office of Student Affairs to be added back into the Online Mentoring Directory.
View the mentee goal form at the end of this SPARK Page or by clicking here.
All successful relationships are built from effective communication. Determine the most efficient modality for communicating with your mentee by requesting their communication preferences in an introductory e-mail. This may be communicating by phone, video chat, e-mail, or a combination of all.
Once communication preferences are determined, spend time getting to know your mentee, listening actively to the information they're sharing about their career interests and goals.
Listening actively is the most basic skill you will use throughout your professional relationship. Active listening not only establishes rapport but creates a positive, accepting environment that permits open communication. By listening actively, you will ascertain your protégé’s interests and needs.
Examples include the following:
- Show interest in what they're saying, and reflect back important aspects of what was said to show that you’ve understood
- Use body language (such as making eye contact) that shows you are paying attention to what he or she is saying
- If you are talking by phone, reduce background noise and limit interruptions. Your mentee will feel that they have your undivided attention. When utilizing e-mail, answer within 24 hours if possible, and be sure your message is responsive to their original message
- Reserve discussing your own experiences or giving advice until after your mentee has had a chance to thoroughly explain their issue, question, or concern
Trust is built over time. You will increase trust by keeping your conversations and other communications with your mentee confidential, honoring your scheduled meetings and calls, consistently showing interest and support, and by being honest with your mentee.
Determining Goals and Building Capacity
As a mentor, you should have your own career and personal goals and share these, when appropriate, with your mentee. It is also likely that your mentee will ask how you set and achieved your own career and academic goals.
When discussing academic and career goals with your mentee, document their interests to assist with establishing an action plan for success. You will develop your mentee's capacity for learning and achieving their goals by doing the following:
- Coordinating informational interviews with networking contacts aligned to your mentee's occupational interests
- Reviewing occupational and labor market information through online databases such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*Net Online
- Introducing your mentee to professional interest groups such as professional associations
- Learning how to use the alumni tool on LinkedIn to explore where alumni are currently working who share similar academic interests
Encourage & Inspire
Building self-efficacy in career decision making is essential to your mentee's success. Throughout your professional relationship, it is important to offer encouraging words of support to acknowledge your mentee's progress and growth toward their goals. Try some of these:
- Comment favorably on their accomplishments
- Communicate your belief in their capacity to grow personally and professionally and reach their goals
- Respond to their frustrations and challenges with words of support, understanding, encouragement and praise. (Just knowing that someone else has been there can be tremendously helpful.)
You can also inspire your mentee to excel. Examples include the following:
- Share your personal vision or those of other leaders
- Describe experiences, mistakes, and successes you or others have encountered on the road to achieving your goals
- Talk with your mentee about people and events that have inspired and motivated you
- Introduce your mentee to colleagues who can be additional useful contacts or inspiring models
The foundations of mentoring will help you successfully move through the four stages of the mentoring relationship. Continue reading to learn more about these stages and how to prepare for a successful mentoring experience.
Considerations for Determining Fit
Listen for Understanding
During the initial meeting with your prospective mentee, ask open ended questions to get a complete picture of their academic and career interests. Listen to the information being shared and make notes to reference after your initial conversation.
Assess Your Value
Reflect on the information shared during your initial meet-up with your prospective mentee. What questions did the student ask where you were able to provide valuable perspective or information? Ask yourself how much value you will be able to provide during the formal mentoring relationship over an extended period of time. Do your academic and career interests align? Assess the value you may add to the learning experience of the student.
Successful mentoring relationships will occur when there are shared academic and career interests and the mentor can provide valuable perspective and guidance to their mentee. After your initial meet-up, determine if you are the right point of contact who can help support your mentee in their goal setting and planning through the duration of the formal mentoring relationship.
Stages of Mentoring Relationships
Like most relationship dynamics, mentoring relationships progress through stages. Your mentoring relationship will likely reflect four stages with each stage forming an inherent part of the next:
- Building the Relationship
- Exchanging Information and Establishing Goals
- Working Towards Goals/Deepening the Engagement
- Ending the Formal Mentoring Relationship and Planning for the Future
In the sections that follow, activities will be shared for progressing successfully through each stage of your mentoring relationship.
Source: Phillips-Jones, L. (2001) Personal communication. Adapted from CCC/The Mentoring Group’s Mentor and Mentee training materials.
Stage 1: Building the Relationship
During this phase, you will get to know each other and begin to establish trust.
During your first meeting (ideally face-to-face), discuss your backgrounds, experiences, interests, and expectations. You will also make agreements about confidentiality and the frequency of contact. Establish a schedule for communicating regularly, whether in-person, by phone, or e-mail.
There are a number of questions you may want to ask your mentee during your second meeting:
- Tell me a little more about yourself, your skills, interests, campus involvement, some key challenges you are facing, etc. (Begin by reflecting back on a few of the key experiences and interests expressed during your initial meeting.)
- How have you benefited from other mentoring relationships?
- What are some of your preliminary goals for our mentoring relationship?
Stage 2: Exchanging Information and Establishing Goals
During Stage II, you will exchange more information and set goals. Your relationship and trust will deepen. As the mentoring relationship unfolds, be attentive to practicing active listening and consistently expressing encouragement.
Helping Your Mentee Establish Goals
By exchanging information, you will gain insight into the goals your mentee hopes to achieve through the mentoring relationship. Mentors can provide their mentees with input and support on a great variety of issues and challenges. For example, your mentee may want to improve their skills in a particular area. Alternatively, they may need your guidance on a new and upcoming occupation that they're interested in exploring further.
Use the Mentoring Program Goal Form to help your mentee document their goals for your mentoring relationship. This can be completed together, or assigned to the mentee to complete prior to a scheduled meeting time.
The Mentoring Program Goal Form should be used as a framework for establishing a list of actions that can be completed within a specified period of time. This part of the Goal Form should be completed together.
Coach your mentee to refer back to their goals identified in the form periodically as a way of re- focusing on goals and measuring progress. Referring to the goals regularly is also a good way for you to determine how much support you need to provide. For instance, if your mentee would like to develop their networking skills in a group dynamic (goal), you might recommend preparing an elevator pitch that can be customized to use at future networking events (action). Assisting your mentee draft an elevator pitch, or model an elevator pitch that you have used, could be a great way to provide support and build their confidence.
Stage 3: Working Towards Goals/Deepening the Engagement
During this stage, you will help your mentee work towards achieving their goals through conversations, sharing resources, and introducing them to other networking colleagues. This is a rich phase marked by openness and trust, meaningful discussion, and application of new insights and approaches. Your mentee will require your ongoing encouragement at this stage. You may also feel comfortable to challenge your mentee to think in new ways or approach a problem differently.
Consider discussing the following:
- What are the benefits of the relationship up to this point? How am I helping you (mentee) achieve your goals?
- What changes do you see in yourself and in the way you approach your work as a result of the mentoring relationship?
- What kinds of adjustments or changes, if any, are needed in your goals or in our relationship?
This is also the stage during which energy in the relationship can wane! Sometimes, the mentee will feel concerned that they're burdening you. Other responsibilities will often compete with their commitment to the mentoring relationship, such as co-curricular involvement, a heavier than usual course load, or work obligations. If you haven’t heard from your mentee, check in with them. Take the lead if necessary. Also take stock of your own time and energy. Is the partnership working well for you? Do you need to make some adjustments?
This is a highly rewarding phase of the relationship, but challenges may arise. Here are some examples of challenges other mentors and mentees have faced and resolved.
Time and energy: The most common challenge by far is finding sufficient time to do all you want to do in the partnership. Despite good intentions, other priorities interfere for both of you.
Solution: Think small rather than large, especially in the beginning. Avoid promising more time than you can deliver. Check with your mentee to be certain you are both comfortable with the time you are spending and with the learning that is occurring.
Building trust quickly: With only a few hours of contact each month, it is not easy to build the kind of trust you both would like.
Solution: Other mentors have successfully used several strategies, such as the following: Listen very carefully, and remember what your mentee has said in the past. Demonstrate your credibility. Keep your promises and commitments -- if anything needs to be adjusted, let your mentee know immediately and reschedule or renegotiate them. Admit some errors made and lessons learned. Avoid talking negatively about others. Above all, keep the information shared by your mentee confidential.
Not being the “expert” on all your mentee's needs: Many mentors find it difficult when they do not have all of the answers (and this is completely okay!).
Solution: Explain your role as “learning facilitator” early in your relationship. Tell your mentee that you will not have all the answers, and you are looking forward to learning together as well as seeking help from others who are experts on different topics.
Being sensitive to differences: Particularly in the beginning, it is tempting to assume that both of you are the same. In fact, you will share experiences. Explore and learn from your differences as well.
Solution: In addition to discovering all your similarities, work carefully to identify the differences between you and your mentee. For example, how do the specifics of their student experience differ from the role(s) you’ve had? What is occurring now for them that you did not face? If you are of different generations/ages, genders, races, cultural groups, or professional backgrounds, what different experiences have you both had? Assume a learning mode, and invite discussion about all of these topics. As Stephen Covey reminds us in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand.”
Stage 4: Ending the Formal Mentoring Relationship and Planning for the Future
During this stage, planning for the mentee's continued success is balanced with bringing the formal mentoring relationship to a close. Work with your mentee to define the types of support they may need in the future. You may want to connect them with additional colleagues who can provide benefits other than those provided by you.
Adjournment brings closure to the journey. Your final discussion should be dedicated to the following:
- Reflecting on accomplishments, challenges, and progress towards goals
- What will your mentee remember most about the relationship?
- What challenges lie ahead?
- Exploring other types of support they may still need
- Discussing whether the relationship will continue informally and how you will implement that
- Expressing thanks and evaluating the Webster Mentoring Program through the end of program evaluation form
Mentee Goal Form
Your mentee will need to complete the Webster Mentoring Program Goals Form in the first couple weeks of your professional relationship. The goals that are established by your mentee will be a valuable component to your relationship.
Instruct your mentee to identify 1-3 goals that can be accomplished through the duration of your mentoring relationship. You will then meet with your mentee to discuss these goals and brainstorm a list of actions the mentee should complete.
It is important to ensure progress and success of your mentee throughout your mentoring relationship. To ensure their success, you can use a framework called SMART goals. Here’s how SMART goals work and a few tips and examples to assist with goal-setting.
A SMART goal is a carefully planned, clear and trackable objective. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
S = Specific
Instruct your mentee to be as clear and specific as possible with what they want to achieve.
M = Measurable
Ask your mentee what evidence will prove they're making progress toward their goal?
A = Achievable
Sometimes our goals can be a bit ambitious, but not necessarily unachieveable. Setting goals that can reasonably be accomplished within a certain timeframe will help keep your mentee motivated and focused.
R = Relevant
When your mentee is setting goals, ask them to consider whether or not they are relevant. Each goal should align with their interests and larger, long-term goals. If a goal doesn’t contribute toward their broader objectives, direct your mentee to rethink the goal. Ask your mentee why the goal is important to them, how achieving it will help them and how it will contribute toward their long-term goals.
T = Time-based
Establishing an end-date can help provide motivation and help your mentee prioritize. Determine the complete by date together and identify 3 progress report check-in times for your mentee to reflect on their progress and identify any additional support they need to achieve their goals.