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What is a Mentor?

Previously: Overview of the Guide to Being a Proactive Mentee in a Summer Research Program

Mentoring, defined

Dr. Carole Bland describes mentoring as a “collaborative learning relationship that proceeds through purposeful stages over time and has the primary goal of helping a mentee to acquire the essential competencies needed for success in a research career.”* In her definition, Dr. Bland highlights five essential and interlocking characteristics of an effective mentor-mentee relationship. These relationships are collaborative, learning-centered, purposeful, competency-driven, and career-oriented. All of these characteristics are at the core of both in-person and virtual mentor-mentee relationships.

When you are in a collaborative mentor-mentee relationship, you and your mentor will work together to achieve your mutual goals. Effective mentors work to understand their mentee’s career goals and learning style while also identifying opportunities for learning and career advancement. You, as an effective mentee, should work to provide honest information relating to your research skills and career goals. You should also work to follow through on you mentor’s advice.

That collaboration should be learning-centered. The goal is for you, as the mentee, to learn the key skills for conducting research and advancing your research career. Research and career goals shape what learning experiences you should pursue to grow into an independent researcher.

Likewise, mentoring is purposeful. The learning experiences you pursue have the purpose of putting you in a position to achieve your career goals. That purpose explains why the learning experiences involved in a mentor-mentee relationship are ultimately competency-driven and career-oriented; they provide you with the necessary hard and soft skills for advancing along their research career pathway.

Action Items:

  1. Articulate three specific goals you have for the summer. Keep these written down for your meetings with your mentor. They’ll guide your collaboration together.
  2. Now, articulate three specific goals you have for your career. Keep these written down, too. They’ll also help guide your collaboration together.

*Bland, et Al. (2012). Faculty Success Through Mentoring: A Guide for Mentors, Mentees, and Leaders. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated. P. 12

Up Next: Who is a mentor?