Mentoring is a system of semi-structured guidance whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers. Mentors need to be readily accessible and prepared to offer help as the need arises – within agreed bounds. It is more than ‘giving advice’, or passing on what your experience was in a particular area or situation. It’s about motivating and empowering the other person to identify their own issues and goals, and helping them to find ways of resolving or reaching them – not by doing it for them, or expecting them to ‘do it the way I did it’, but by understanding and respecting different ways of working.
- Mentoring can be a short-term arrangement until the original reason for the partnership is fulfilled (or ceases), or it can last many years.
- Mentoring is not counseling or therapy – though the mentor may help the mentee to access more specialised avenues of help if it becomes apparent that this would be the best way forward.
Mentors very often have their own mentors, and in turn their mentees might wish to ‘put something back’ and become mentors themselves – it’s a chain for ‘passing on’ good practice so that the benefits can be widely spread.
A formal program, like the Academic Mentoring Program at the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo is designed to help you in your professional, personal and career related activities as you work towards becoming a successful academic in your field and a successful employee in the, University of Colombo.
In an academic setting mentoring often refers to relationship where a senior colleague offers guidance, support, encouragement and informed feedback to a more junior colleague. On joining the University, the Academic Mentoring Program will contact you and help you to identify a mentor, who will be a more experienced academic. This mentor will help you to assess of your skills and aspirations and to develop a strategy that will establish a career path for you within the context of the University’s objectives.
No. In addition to the formal support that you will receive through the Academic Mentoring Program, you will realize that you will be receiving guidance, support and encouragement from your superiors, colleagues and even subordinates in a numerous way and at various occasions. These are ways of informal mentoring, which are by no means is no inferior to a formal program. You should make maximum use if these opportunities.
In a successful mentoring relationship, there is a high degree of mutual trust. You also need to build a warm reciprocal relationship with your mentor, in order to reap the maximum benefits. Therefore, select a mentor that you trust and are comfortable with.
The mentor helps the mentee to become what they aspire to be and realized his or her full potential. Having detailed information about mentors and their interests may help you select the mentor that suits you best.
Regular contact with your mentor is crucial to developing a successful relationship. It is your responsibility as the mentees to maintain regular contact with your mentor. However, you also need to select a mentor who is able to devote adequate time towards you.
Listed below are some characteristics of great mentors identified by mentees who nominated their respective mentors for the Nature award for creative mentoring in science 2007. These are some things you might also consider when selecting your mentor.
- A mentor for life-A great mentor provides a lot of care and attention when building the mentee’s career. Therefore, even after the official relationship comes to an end, the advice given by the mentor remains useful throughout life and the friendship between the mentor and mentee continues to grow. Therefore, most of the mentors become mentors for life.
- Personal characteristics-Mentees describe great mentors with the terms “Passion” “enthusiasm” and “positivity”. In addition to these characteristics, “sensitivity” of the mentor towards the mentee in non-professional aspects of life such as balancing work and family life, getting adapted to new cultures and building confidence in a cultural setting which is not very welcoming is highly admired
- Availability- Availability of a mentor is highly appreciated by the mentees. A great mentor is always able to make time amidst large workloads and many responsibilities and the door is always open
- Inspiration and Optimism-A great mentor should be able to convert a demotivated mentee to an inspired and optimistic one after an interaction
- Balancing direction and Self-direction-Great mentors are capable of balancing between balancing direction and self-direction without falling into extremes such as micromanagement and letting the mentee figure everything out on his/her own
- Developed the art of questioning and listening-Qualities of a great mentor includes the art of active listening and asking appropriate questions
- St-andrews.ac.uk. (2019). Mentoring academic staff/Current Staff/University of St Andrews. [online] Available at: (Click here) [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].
- Dur.ac.uk. (2019). Coaching and Mentoring – Durham University. [online] Available at: (Click here) [Accessed 7 Mar. 2019].
- Less A, Dennis, C, Campbell P. Nature’s guide for mentors. Nature 2007; 447:791-797.(Click here)
Mentorship has obvious benefits for both the mentee and the mentor, but one of the greatest challenges we face in setting up an academic mentoring program in recruiting mentors or developing a pool of mentors. ‘I don’t have time.’ ‘I don’t have the right skills.’ ‘My personality isn’t suitable.’ These are some of the reasons that we are given. We need to be convinced ourselves of the benefits becoming a mentor before we can convince a colleague to take up the challenge. So, why become a mentor? Here are just five reasons:
- Become a better leader-Developing the skill of working with individuals who do not have a natural connection with you and being able to work patiently while guiding and assisting individuals in discovering the path that is best for them. Therefore, mentoring hones the skills and characteristics that a great leader should possess. By working on one-to-one basis, the leadership skills required in a larger group setting will also be improved.
- Learn more about your institute or profession-Mentoring helps you gain insight on the workload and challenges faced by others in the institute and a broader idea on how work takes place within the institute.
- Learn to see things differently-Mentoring gives you the opportunity to work with people who are usually younger than you and who are from different walks of life. These people look at things from a different perspective than you.
- Change someone’s world-Do you remember a teacher or mentor who said something or did something to support you, that ended up changing your life? This is your opportunity to do the same for someone else.
- Feel good about yourself- Mentoring is neither recognized nor rewarded in the present system. Although this is the case, the reward of seeing someone whom you assisted, move forward in their life and succeed, is priceless. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that you are the reason someone’s life has changed for the better.
- Mentor will be usually a person not involved in the routine administrative framework of the mentee.
- Mentor is normally a person not involved in mentees promotional procedures. However, in the event that a mentor is invited for such an activity he/she may disclose the fact that individual concerned is his/her mentee.
- Mentor is expected to assist and guide with regard to the requirements and expectations of the mentee and the department/unit concerned.
- Three parties may come to an agreement (mentor, mentee and the Heads of Department -HoD) on a common format for the procedure to be used during the program. For this, mentee can develop an individual career development plan as a base line reference for the mentoring sessions.
- Mentor’s main role will be to support a mentee’s professional, career and academic development.
- Mentor will not be supervising or managing mentees activities or be officially responsible for any output/act of the mentee.
- Mentors are requested to provide general support by being a critical friend and a source of advice and support in different roles expected from the mentee (teaching, research, administration and any other special tasks defined by the institution).
- First formal meeting is preferably conducted face to face and expected within 1 month following identification of a mentor, except for mentees who are overseas. They are encouraged to use other e-modes of communication.
- It is expected to hold frequent sessions while there is flexibility for the mentor and mentee to work out other modes of discussions.
- There will be facilitation programs conducted by the AMP from time to time. Mentors are encouraged to participate in these programs.
- In the event that the mentor is away for a long period of more than the interim period between their two regular mentoring sessions, mentors are expected to work out a practical plan for the interim period (eg; skype, e mentoring, introduce a temporary assistance, HoD to take over etc. the best way will be decided by the mentor, mentee and HoD).
- A mentor can introduce other personalities to a mentee if required (eg; Introduce a researcher who is working on a similar project where mentee is looking for technical advice).
- Mentor is expected to maintain confidentiality of the mentoring sessions and release reports accordingly in a constructive manner.
- Mentor may keep brief records of key mentoring sessions and maintain confidentiality when required.
- Mentorship program will be considered complete upon obtaining confirmation by the mentee. However, mentees are encouraged to continue for longer periods.
Following your appointment, you are given the freedom to identify a mentor who will be more experienced and more qualified than what you are now. You are encouraged to make use of this opportunity during your probationary period. Following are some useful guidelines.
- Upon assumption of duties, you will identify a mentor of your choice within a period of 6 months, with the guidance of your HoD if necessary. You will then inform the AMP and AMP will register both of you in the program.
- Following this selection, it will be useful to meet your mentor in person, and as early as possible, preferably within 1 month of your AMP registration. It will also be beneficial to discuss with the HoD and develop a basic plan on what your future plans and your departmental considerations are, prior to your first mentoring session.
- You are expected to meet frequently (Eg: every other month) during the first year and then less frequently (min. 4 times) if you wish, during subsequent years.
- You will participate at the mentorship facilitation activities held by the AMP on a periodic manner.
- You will be expected to submit annual reports to the AMP. This will include a self-evaluation and a check list together with an endorsement from your mentor.
- You will also submit a summary to the annual appraisal forms of the department.
- Some tips on making use of the program in an effective manner,
- Always make sure to arrange the time, venue and mode for your meetings, in consultation with the mentor. Meetings will be effective only when both of you are comfortable about the settings.
- It is worth spending some time prior to the sessions, thinking on what should be discussed. This will save time of both you and your mentor.
- Keep a pre-prepared check list of items for your mentoring sessions. This will allow you to utilize your time effectively. If possible, let your mentor have the agenda prior to the meeting.
- Identify answers to key questions at early stages,
- What are your expectations?
- What are your academic interests?
- What kind of assistance do you expect from your mentor? (Eg: advice, information, sharing knowledge, directions to resources, skills development, technical support, something else?)
- You are expected to take responsibility in decision making, action and the effects of your action. ‘Quick fixes’ cannot be expected from a mentor.
- Be professional in your relationship with the mentor (being punctual, respecting the agreed ground rules and speaking the truth etc.).
- You can keep the discussion content confidential if you wish to do so, when necessary.
In addition to the formal AMP that you will receive, you will understand that you will be receiving guidance, support and encouragement from your superiors, colleagues and even subordinates in numerous ways and at various occasions. These are ways of informal mentoring, which is neither inferior nor useless. You should not refrain yourself from approaching any other means of improving yourself just because of the availability of this program.
- Identify mentee’s long-term goals and the institutional requirements expected from the mentee.
- Decide on the time, mode, venue and frequency of mentoring sessions together with the mentee in a mutual agreement in such a way that mentee will benefit and you will be comfortable to devote that time and effort for a mentoring session.
- Encourage your mentee to respect each other’s time and other responsibilities, ensuring that they do not impose beyond what is reasonable.
- Create an encouraging and a friendly environment so that mentee is comfortable to discuss the issues of concern.
- Framework of each discussion should be managed by the mentor and mentee. Educate that the mentee should take responsibility for the content.
- Listen actively and demonstrate enthusiasm in what mentee is going to say, but you should hold the focus on the agenda of the mentee.
- Decide on appropriate approaches for a mentee who is not adequately focused or progressing.
- Mentees are guided to make decision and take action while mentor does not act on behalf of the mentee. Mentors can reflect upon the consequences of such action.
- Guide and assist the mentee to understand the long-term image of the career and the mentorship process, if the mentee is focused on day-to-day things only.
- Take an interest in the mentee’s progress.
- Obtain novel perspectives and an insight into the faculty
- Facilitates networking
- Improving skills in the management of staff and their development
- Provides personal satisfaction and facilitates self-reflection
- Mentoring and coaching skills are further developed
- Career rejuvenation
- Increase in self-confidence
- Personal development is encouraged and inspired
- Obtain assistance in identifying and achieving career goals
- Gaps in knowledge and generic skills could be identified and filled
- Increase in self-confidence
- Development of a large number of perspectives on career opportunities
- Opportunity to communicate with a senior role model
- Obtaining insight into the culture of the university
- Mentoring and coaching skills can be developed
- Advancement of career with the rate of promotion being higher
- Increases the number of opportunities and the probability of staying at the institution
- Offering of higher salaries
- Development of time management skills and an increase in productivity
- Greater likelihood of obtaining external research grants
- Improvement of work-life balance and personal and professional development
- Heightened career aspirations
- Improvement of networking skills
- Development of staff members leads to improvement in academic performance
- Communication between groups and individuals is improved
- Strengthening the dedication towards learning and development within the faculty
- Facilitating the development of novel ideas and innovations
- Boost the institution’s reputation as a result of the improved career advancement of the research staff
- Funding bodies can witness the presence of a successful academic mentoring program