Elements of Effective Mentoring

Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring relationships can vary from one-to-one mentoring partnerships, generally pairing a new faculty member with a senior faculty member, to team mentoring.  While face-to-face mentoring is common, mentors can be in another department or university.  Peer mentors are also useful in addressing certain aspects of career development and work-life balance.  Ideally, an effective mentoring program has some elements of all these partnerships.

Formal or Classic Mentoring

This type of one-on-one mentoring pairs a senior faculty member with an early career faculty member, usually from the same department, for a specified time period. This approach is typically hierarchical and assumes mentors accept responsibility for helping mentees grow and develop.

Benefits of Formal or Classic Mentoring

  • It increases job performance, enhances confidence, facilitates networking, and decreases turnover, thus positively impacting the entire department.
  • It assures that every early career faculty member has a mentor.
  • Mentees can receive useful discipline-specific information (e.g., departmental expectations for tenure, feedback on proposals or manuscripts, etc.).

Informal Mentoring

Voluntary mentoring relationships that are not assigned and lack structure about how mentors work with mentees constitute informal mentoring.

Benefits of Informal Mentoring

  • Informal mentoring tends to be more egalitarian, longer lasting, and occurs with greater frequency than formal mentoring.
  • Mentees tend to have stronger connections and broader interactions with informal mentors.
  • Greater flexibility.

Peer Mentoring

Faculty members with equal ranks from either the same or different departments develop supportive networks.  Groups meet at all stages of their career to discuss issues and challenges they’re facing, develop networks, as well as share advice, information, and strategies.

Benefits of Peer Mentoring

  • It ensures mentoring occurs even with unbalanced numbers of junior and senior faculty.
  • It can benefit those with unsatisfactory classic individual mentoring relationships.
  • Participants are exposed to a range of opinions, advice, and diverse perspectives rather than relying on the sole opinion of one mentor.
  • Since peer mentoring doesn’t rely on being chosen as a mentee, it offers some balance for racial and ethnic minorities and women and ensures equal access to mentoring.
  • Though personality differences can doom individual mentoring relationships, they are less important in peer mentoring since no one relationship is privileged over another.

Group or Team Mentoring

In contrast to traditional mentoring, group mentoring typically involves senior faculty members serving as mentors for a group of junior mentees who meet regularly as a team to explore focused or multiple topics such as developing a dossier, obtaining grant funding, or discussing best practices in teaching. For example, a senior faculty member may meet with a group of early career faculty on a monthly basis. Monthly meetings are most effective when a given discussion topic or a speaker/panel is arranged to address a topic.  Such approaches are useful for professional development workshops but are not a replacement for personal guidance and confidential discussions associated with one-on-one mentoring.

Benefits of Group or Team Mentoring

  • It has many of the same advantages of peer mentoring, but with the added advantage of a senior mentor who can provide advice on topics beyond what could be gleaned from peers.
  • A few mentors can serve many mentees, which can help address unbalanced numbers of junior and senior faculty. It can also maximize the impact of excellent mentors.
  • Mentees can learn from each other, and early career faculty may learn things that they didn’t even think to ask about.

Network-based Mentoring

Research from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) supports moving away from a guru-based model of mentoring, and embracing a network-based mentoring model.  Network-based mentoring (1) puts the faculty mentee at the center,  (2) engages the mentor in helping the faculty mentee to develop a network of supports to meet their needs and goals, and (3) empowers the faculty mentee to continually think about what they need in order to prosper, and how to access those resources.

Benefits of Network-based Mentoring

  • Uses a network of multiple, diverse mentors (e.g., peers, near-peers, senior faculty, chairs, same-race/cross-race, same-gender/cross-gender).
  • More inclusive of women and minorities than the traditional “grooming” model of mentoring.
  • Rather than being seen as the person who is there to meet all of the faculty mentee’s needs, the mentor initiates a conversation to elicit the mentee’s needs, asks questions, validates needs, helps to brainstorm solutions, makes connections, and confirms next steps.e relationships and practices as needed.