Mentoring can form a valuable component of a research-engaged academics career development. Mentors can provide advice and support regarding career planning, identifying opportunities and solutions to issues, provide feedback on progress related to career goals in an informal setting and can build and extend professional networks, complementing the advice and guidance provided by your supervisor.
Mentoring others is also an important part of career development for research-engaged academics. UQ’s Criteria for Academic Performance Policy have criteria focused on mentoring others, particularly for more senior academics.
UQ has a Mentoring Policy which: outlines the objectives of a mentoring policy; provides definitions of informal and organised mentoring; defines mentoring and how mentoring is different to supervising; outlines the role of the mentor and the role of the mentee; and provides guidance on how Heads of Organisational Units can support mentoring. The role of Mentors and Mentees as described in the Policy is outlined below.
The Role of the Mentor
Mentoring usually involves a more experienced person guiding and sponsoring a less experienced person to achieve goals in an area in which the mentor has experience, which can involve:
- sharing expertise and experiences;
- suggesting solutions to problems;
- acting as a sounding board and providing alternative perspectives;
- exchanging feedback; and
- introducing the mentee to people and networks to assist them in their career.
The mentor and mentee share the duty to observe the confidential nature of the relationship and the dialogue arising within it.
The Role of the Mentee
The role of the mentee can vary depending on the context and purpose of the mentoring relationship but will, in principle, include:
- taking responsibility for identifying and achieving their own development goals;
- initiating meetings with the mentor, managing meeting dates and times and negotiating the agenda for discussions within the relationship;
- listening, clarifying, reflecting back and discussing;
- sharing expertise and experience; and
- sharing feedback with the mentor about how the relationship is progressing in order to improve the outcomes they are achieving from mentoring meetings.
Establishing a mentoring relationship
It is important for a mentoring relationship to be based on clear agreement of aims and scope. Mentoring relationships can range from formal and structured to informal and unstructured. It is up to the person seeking mentorship and their mentor to discuss and agree the aims, scope and nature of a mentoring relationship.
Several, Faculties, Institutes and Schools have mentoring programs or supports in place. First determine if you have a local program available by checking with your Research Liaison. For a more informal or independent mentoring relationship you might like to independently identify and approach a mentor.
Those seeking mentorship, whether it be through an existing program or an independently established relationship, should seek to:
- Identify your objectives in seeking a mentor – identify what it is that you hope to achieve or learn and how a mentor can assist with that.
- Identify a potential mentor that has the skills, knowledge and experience related to your objectives and specific goals.
- Consider the scope the relationship, including goals, regularity of meetings and initial agreement of timeframe.
Once a mentor has been identified and agrees to act as a mentor based on outlined mentoring objectives and scope, the pair should again discuss and confirm the scope of the mentoring relationship. e.g. we agree to meet once a month for 12 months to discuss/achieve XXX goals/issues/challenges. By the end of the period we expect to have XXXX.
Your reasons for seeking a mentor will assist in identifying the right mentor. Reasons for seeking a mentor may include:
- Building skills and networks to advance and achieve success in a research career
- Transitioning your career to industry, government or community sector or other roles within or outside of the university sector.
- Seeking guidance and feedback on specific fellowship, grant or publication goals - noting your supervisor should be aware of such goals and this support would be in addition to that provided by your supervisor.
- Seeking general advice and guidance related to identifying approaches to dealing with life and career related challenges and opportunities.
Also as a mentor you may be seeking to provide advice and guidance on specific areas:
- Successful grant and fellowship applications and publication
- Academic promotion and academic leadership
- Gender and family issues related to career development
- Entrepreneurship and commercialisation
- Engaging with industry, government or community sector to establish research partnerships
- Leading an academic collaboration
- Transitioning out of academia into other careers, etc.
- General advice and support for early career researchers
For Faculties, Institutes and School seeking to establish a mentoring program you may consider:
- Developing an internal program, or a program linked with other areas within the University
- Having a register of those willing to mentor and those seeking mentorship which outlines areas of interest/expertise/experience relevant to mentoring to assist researchers to identify appropriate mentors, or for people to be matched in a more formal, structured mentoring program.
- Offering workshops and training related to mentoring. See links below.
- Employing a company that specialises in mentoring for researchers, or early career researchers, examples include those listed below, however you are encouraged to research what would best meet your specific needs:
Links to mentoring information and rescources
The below Mentoring resources and training opportunities provide further tips and guidance regarding establish a mentoring relationship relevant to your career development needs.
- UQICTR - Research Mentoring
- American Psychological Association – Responsible mentoring of Researchers
- US Office of Intramural Training and Education - Mentoring Guidelines
- University of St Thomas - Career Mentor Guidelines
- University of Michigan– Mentoring Guide: A Guide for Mentors
- Journal of Extension - Keys to Successful Mentoring Relationships
- Mentor Planet - Starting a Great Mentoring Relationship
- University of Washington - Career Development: Mentee Guide
- Management Mentors - Corportate Mentoring Tips
- Mac Lake Online - Ground Rules for Establishing a Mentoring Relationship
- AMTA - Ten Tips for a Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationship
Wikipedia: "Research development is a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness"