Being involved in a mentoring relationship requires effort. Any faculty member who wishes to develop professionally through the use of a mentor should consider these factors:
Willingness to Learn
Successful protégés must have a willingness to learn from their chosen mentors. A mentoring relationship is interactive and requires the protégé to be committed to setting goals and working toward specific learning objectives.
Willingness and Ability to Self-Evaluate
Protégés need to be able to assess their skills objectively and evaluate potential opportunities for self-development. They should have a personal vision, specific career/life goals and a good grasp on current career realities. This self-evaluation is required for the protégé to identify potential mentors and set objectives within the mentoring relationship. Before asking for help, protégés should know their tentative career/life goals, their strengths, the development they need and the specific assistance they would like. The more they understand about themselves, the more accurately they can present their goals to their potential mentor. Some ways to demonstrate their ability to evaluate their skills include:
Building a mentoring relationship takes time. Good protégés recognize that a mentor’s time is valuable and ensure that they adequately prepare for each face-to-face meeting. It is recommended that protégés be prepared to commit a minimum of two hours every other week, in addition to the time for meetings, for mentoring activities, including review and preparation. Finding time to do the many things required as a new professional is often difficult. Time management is an acquired skill that comes with experience, but can be augmented with appropriate time-management training. If protégés have difficulty meeting the time commitments of the mentoring relationship, they could ask the mentor for advice and ask their supervisor about training-on-the-job.
Commitment and Building Trust
Protégés must be committed to achieving the objectives of a mentoring relationship. Persistence is an important part of the process. The more the mentor is able to trust in the protégé’s ability and willingness, the more committed he or she will be to the partnership. To become trustworthy, protégés must:
Much of the responsibility for initiating a mentoring relationship is, and should be, with the protégé. A protégé needs to have the self-confidence to approach potential mentors and effectively present the potential merits of mentoring relationships. One very important part of self-confidence is the ability to encourage others. This includes giving their mentors recognition and sincere positive feedback. There are many different kinds of feedback and mentors vary in the amount and kind of encouragement they feel comfortable with, for example:
The mentor will expect, and the relationship demands that the details and particulars discussed with the mentor be kept in confidence. Any situation involving a risk to the public would override this expectation. In mentoring situations in which e-mail is used, it is very important to ensure the e-mail messages go only to the mentor. Protégés should take steps to ensure that mentoring messages cannot be opened in error by someone else in their office.
The Protégé’s Role
Before proceeding with any mentoring relationship, the protégé should consider the following points. It is appropriate to review this list from time to time during a mentoring contract in order to review your commitment.
|I am committed to using the experience of my mentor and to accepting the insights that s/he believes could assist me.|
|I am committed to improving my skills in order to meet the goals I have set.|
|I am committed to working with my mentor for the time/frequency agreed upon in the mentoring plan.|
|I am open to learning and receiving feedback from my mentor.|
|I am interested in learning from someone whose background and experiences are different from my own.|
If you feel ready to work with a mentor, there is another important step to take before beginning the task of finding a mentor. Experts on self-help, leadership, personal development and career success planning are all passionate about the first rule for protégés – know your personal vision. What do you plan to do with your life in the next three to five years?
Creating a Vision
It is not always easy to set goals. Most of us know we want to be successful, but after the initial stress of stepping into a new position, we often fail to determine what is needed to become successful. The first step in setting goals is to find a quiet place where you can sit and consider the future. Think about where you can realistically expect to be in three to five years. Place these expectations in one column and then list what you must do to meet the expectation beside it. Here are some questions that may help to get you started:
As you begin the process of setting professional goals as a faculty member, you may find that creating a personal mission statement will help to guide you. Such a mission statement will also help you to make choices about your goals and to explain them and yourself to others.
Before you can have that very important first meeting with a potential mentor, you need to be able to tell the prospective mentor what you want from him/her. If you know what your goals and objectives are, you will be able to explain what you want and need from a mentoring relationship. Knowing this will help you make decisions about whom to approach as a potential mentor, that is, the best person to help you meet your goals.
There is an old saying, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Unfortunately, most of us have never been taught how to set goals or to develop personal mission statements.
Goals define the direction in which you are headed over the next several years. They are not short-term. It may take months or even years to reach them and they may not be clearly measurable. For example, you may set a goal of improving your cardiovascular fitness. You may be thinking about education or perhaps have a goal of getting a more advanced degree.
To create objectives, break down your goals into the smaller steps that you will need to take to reach those goals. Your objectives should be specific and should answer the questions “What will change? By how much? By when?
In order to create the kind of life you want, it helps to have a clear picture of where you are headed – your personal mission. It is equally important to make a plan on how to get there – how to make your dreams come true, one day at a time. By writing down goals and objectives for yourself, you are taking a big step toward making them happen. The next step will be to actually do these things – and keep a record. This is something you and your mentor can work on together over time.
Writing Goals: Here are some of the kinds of goals a young professional might be interested in setting.
Example: One young person might write: Three years from today, I will be:
Objectives are the smaller steps you take to make progress toward your goal. To be useful, objectives need to answer the question “what will change, by how much, by when?”
Usually objectives work best when they are written for the next few months to a year. It’s hard to know what will change beyond that timeframe, so it’s hard to set realistic objectives for longer periods.
Let’s say that a new graduate in engineering has a goal of obtaining an MBA while working full time in industry. Some good objectives might be:
Goals and Objectives Form
The form provides space for you to write down the goals and objectives that you have been thinking about as you read. Any goal or objective that is written down has at least a 50 percent greater chance to be achieved than something that just passes through your mind.
Here’s a tip on how to test if your objectives are solid – ask yourself, are they “SMART?” SMART stands for:
“S”pecific – do I know precisely what has to happen?
“M”easurable – how will I know if I’ve achieved this objective?
“A”ttainable – is it realistic or do-able?
“R”esult-oriented– will it really move me toward my goal?
“T”ime-limited – does it have a due date?
If your goals are SMART, they’re solid – now it is time to begin looking for a mentor.
“If people knew how hard I have had to work
to gain my mastery, it
wouldn’t seem so wonderful.”
The ASU Faculty Mentorship Program website allows you to search for a mentor from the program database using several key pieces of information, such as name, academic department, and research interests. Before settling on an individual with whom you would like to work, it is a good idea to discuss the program with your department chair or immediate supervisor. You may already have established a coaching relationship with your chair. However, a faculty mentor and the Faculty Mentorship Program can help you develop skills and competencies in areas in which your chair may not be an expert or for which he or she may not have time. It is very likely that your department chair or supervisor will be impressed that you have taken the initiative and know what you want and need with regard to professional development.
After locating one or more potential mentors in the database, it is a good idea to approach a potential mentor with a well-developed plan for the mentoring relationship. The mentor needs to be able to assess if s/he will be able to help you acquire the skills or competencies that you want to develop. Do not feel badly or rejected if a potential mentor says no to the request to become your mentor. There are many reasons that s/he may feel compelled to say no. For example:
As you discuss the possibility of a formal mentoring relationship with a potential mentor, keep the following in mind:
Attributes to consider when choosing a mentor
What to look for in a mentor
A good mentoring relationship starts with preparation by both parties. It is
recommended that the relationships have a duration of about one year. It is a
very good idea for the mentor and the protégé to have a contract
for how they intend to work together. You can create your own contract that may
include the following:
“The beginning is the most important part
of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is
the time at which character is being formed and the desired impression is more
Plato (427 – 347 B.C.) The Republic