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