Your Role as a Mentee

Characteristics of a responsible mentee

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses
  • Eagerness and desire to learn.
  • Seriousness in the relationship.
  • Takes the initiative in the relationship, especially in the beginning - be politely insistent about the desire for a mentor.
  • Flexibility and an understanding of this senior professional's demanding schedule. (Be courteous -- not greedy, demanding, clingy or ungrateful.)
  • Takes responsibility for scheduling the mentoring appointments.
  • Promptness for all appointments.
  • Gives feedback, even if nothing is requested.
  • Interest: the mentor will ask questions about the mentee's personal and professional life in an effort to get to know the mentee as a whole person --  mentees should do the same with mentors. Mentors and mentees both have a life outside of the institution and sharing something about it can help each communicate better.
  • Respect: the mentor is there to help the mentee in his or her career by pointing out the stepping stones, not being one; the mentee should never forget the time and effort this person is taking to offer a smoother path on the way to success.

-- Adapted from Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia, Faculty Mentoring Guide.

Questions to discuss with your mentor

Mentors are meant to help you cut through the red tape, but they are not miracle workers.

  • Can you help me understand informal vs formal criteria for promotion and tenure?
  • Does my CV have to be in a specific format?
  • Who can help clarify my department's expectations?
  • How do I build a faculty teaching portfolio?
  • What professional organizations should I join?
  • How do I gain a spot on the program at academic colloquia, symposiums and conferences?
  • How do people in my field find out about, get nominated for and win assistantships, fellowships, awards and prizes?
  • How do I get a grant?
  • Who sits on relevant committees?
  • What departmental and SOM committees should I serve on and how do I get appointed?
  • Who can support a nomination effectively?
  • What is the best way of getting feedback on a paper -- to circulate pre-publication drafts widely, or to show drafts to a few colleagues?
  • How should co-authorship be handled for books and journals?
  • What are the leading journals in my field? Have any colleagues published there?
  • Who can bring a submission to the attention of the editors?
  • What kinds of peer review of teaching should I expect? Should I seek additional feedback?
  • Are there other teaching and learning resources I should explore?
  • What are appropriate and accepted ways to raise different kinds of concerns, issues and problems?
  • How do I deal with conflict within and outside the department (ie: intra-departmental, hospital, KUPI, SOM, etc.)
  • How do I balance my clinical and teaching duties while starting a program of research?
  • How do I balance my personal and professional life?
  • Who can I go to for personal problems?
  • Who can I send my students to for personal problems?
  • How do I deal with difficult students or residents?

Practical strategies for mentees

  • Remember that you own your own development; your mentor doesn't.  It's up to you to identify objectives and to keep the relationship going and focused.
  • Use active listening skills in discussions with your mentor.
  • Be prepared to ask for specific advice on your skill set, ideas, plans and goals.
  • Be complete yet succinct in your comments and explanations.
  • Make it easy for your mentor to give you honest, specific feedback. Ask for it early in your relationship.
  • If you get some corrective feedback, don't defend yourself. Thank your mentor for being honest with you. Then ask, "What specifically don't you like about____?" or "What specifically would you recommend?"

Evaluating a mentor

  • Is your mentor academically successful?
  • Are you interested in your mentor's research areas and techniques?
  • Is your mentor approachable?
  • Does you mentor advise and encourage you with respect to your goals?
  • Do the two of you meet regularly?
  • Do you receive regular feedback and constructive criticism?
  • Does your mentor facilitate your participation in professional activities within and outside the organization?
  • Are you invited to informal gatherings of people from work?
  • Is your mentor your advocate within the department?
  • Does your mentor encourage you to submit grants, help you with research ideas and push you to write manuscripts?
  • Does your mentor connect you to other senior professionals who could "fill in the gaps" in areas where he or she might be less skilled?
  • Has your mentor observed you in a teaching situation and provided feedback?

Last modified: Dec 06, 2011