Mentoring Matters!

Wow am I excited to be writing this post. I stole this title from a seminar I went to last year given at NCAR by Michael S Williams (who has some amazing work you can find here). He said a lot of great things in his seminar. One quote that will stick with me is this:

“MENTORING IS IMPERATIVE”

My program is starting a mentoring program between current graduate students and undergraduates. Initially, I was surprised to hear so much apprehension from graduate students. At first, the cynic in me thought no one saw value in starting a mentoring relationship. What I realized, however, was that many students feel that they were qualified enough to be a mentor. Many people didnt sign up because they didnt know what a mentoring relationship entailed.

The hesitation expressed by my cohort reignited my passion for mentoring, and reminded me how much I want to write about this subject. My goal is for this to be a living document. I plan on updating this with my experiences as both a mentor and mentee. First, I will begin with a synopsis of mentoring fundamentals and goals. Further, I will reflect on lessons learned, and finally share summaries of how my mentor and mentee relationships have evolved.

So lets begin!

Fundamentals:

  • Establish a connection. The most obvious step. There are pathways and resources to making your interest in mentoring known to potential mentees, but they vary largely depending on your environment. I wont go into detail about that here. Generally, if you’re in academia, letting some of the administrators, advisors, or department chairs know you’d be interested can lead you in the right direction.
  • Make your first chats casual. The more comfortable your mentee is, the more likely they will let you in on their large goals and aspirations. Grab coffee! Go for a walk! Try to avoid strict deadlines and goals at the onset of your relationship. Get a feel for who your mentee is as a person, and move from there.
  • Share your strengths, preferences, and personal traits. By sharing these character traits from the onset, you can cater the goals of your relationship. Think critically about yourself and how you treat others! Once you have shared your traits make the space open for your mentee to do the same. Additionally, ask for feedback. If your relationship could be improved, you, the mentor, or the mentee should be able to voice that opinion.
  • Develop expectations about communication. Establish this from the outset. In the beginning, cater yourself to your mentee. As your relationship grows, you could use the opportunity to make them more comfortable with emailing and speaking on the phone. At the beginning, however, its best to do what they are more comfortable with.
  • Lay out goals. If your mentee feels comfortable, talk about ALL goals not just those that are academic or professional. Although you might not be able to help with personal goals, getting your mentee to think about them is still an important step in character development.
  • Create timelines for goals you can assist with. Hold you and your mentee accountable for their goals. At the end of the day, your job is to provide the mentee with some sort of upward mobility, support their pursuits, and challenge them!
  • Remember the relationship is reciprocal. You are lucky to be a mentor! You are forced to stay current with your field being a mentor. You are provided an opportunity to reflect on your life path. Respect should always be given both ways!
  • Provide psychological support. Aside from setting goals and giving advice, a good mentor should enhance a mentees sense of competence and help them find their identity. Encourage them to seek help, not just with you.

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