Setting up the Mentoring Partnership for Success

Your mentor ideally would be assigned by your start date, although the aim is for mentors to be in place within the first month of appointment.  This is co-ordinated through Head of School/RI. You should review the Mentoring Programme which provides an overview of how mentoring works and the parameters.

This section provides an overview of things to consider when you first begin your mentoring relationship. Getting to know each other’s professional background, discussing how you can work together and setting expectations are all important to set your mentoring relationship up for success. A recent report, published by Scottish Universities Life Science Alliance (SULSA) identifies the key skills required to be an effective mentor and an effective mentee:

How to be an effective mentor

Willingness to share skills, knowledge and expertise: a good mentor appreciates that this is an ongoing requirement of the relationship, and understands the importance of it to guide their mentee to achieve their potential and progress within their role.

Takes a personal interest in the mentoring relationship: good mentors do not take their role lightly and are committed to helping their mentees succeed, whilst feeling gratification in doing so. Many mentors appreciate mentoring can also enhance their own career and personal development, and this valuing of their own growth can help to add a personal interest and passion to the relationship.

Provides helpful feedback: one of the main responsibilities of a mentor is to provide guidance and effective feedback. This is where the mentee is most likely to grow by identifying their current strengths and weaknesses and learning how to use them in their role. A good mentor will provide their mentee with challenges that will further their professional development whilst also encouraging them to become more self-aware and reflective. They will also help their mentee address and be more honest about where they might have gone wrong.

Active listener: mentors must ensure they are an active, and not passive, listener. They should be fully engaged and reinforce what their mentee is saying by showing nonverbal actions such as eye contact and nodding. They should show real sincerity in what the mentee is saying and ensure they ask questions.

Open-minded: a good mentor should approach their relationship with an open mind and try to keep their own thoughts, value system and prejudices aside. They need to open their mind to a new way of thinking.


How to be an effective mentee

Take responsibility for own learning: a mentee should have a clear idea of what they want to achieve within their role, setting their own objectives and mentoring agenda. A mentee will only get out of the mentoring relationship what they put into it. A mentor has the ability to equip a mentee with the knowledge they possess, but only if the mentee is willing to take responsibility and absorb all the knowledge they can.

Be realistic: whilst appreciating the influence a mentor can have on their career, a good mentee must also realise that mentors have significant workloads however they are prepared to  invest their time and effort into a mentees career development. As such, a mentee should set attainable yet challenging goals for the time spent with their mentor. A mentee should also recognise the importance of other aspects of continued professional development and not singly rely on the mentoring relationship to aid in their career growth.

Open to feedback: a mentee must be open to the feedback received from their mentor and be willing to look at a situation from another person’s perception to gain a more objective viewpoint. Being open to try new things and considering alternative ways to achieve something is one of the biggest values gained via a mentoring relationship.

Be prepared: a mentee should be fully prepared for each meeting. .Being focused in your mentor discussions means  you are more likely to stay on task and optimise your time together. Being prepared also ensures a mentee is being respectful of their mentor’s time and shows appreciation of the time the mentor is devoting to them.

Be open and honest: a mentee must understand and appreciate their own needs and objectives to effectively share them with their mentor. This requires self-reflection and the willingness to be open and honest with their mentor to discuss the areas that may need work.

Be open-minded: a mentee should approach the relationship with an open mind and try to keep their own prejudices.

Discussing how you can work together

Agreeing on the terms of how you are going to work together is important. Aside from what you are going to focus on in your mentoring, it is important to consider how you are going to work together. For example, allocating planned time (e.g. regular planned meetings booked well in advance), boundaries, accessibility (e.g. drop in sessions vs planned time), availability, confidentiality, etc. You should also agree how you are going to monitor how mentoring is working for both parties. Planning check in sessions focusing on ‘how is this working for you?’ with agreement to be open and constructive in feedback.  The types of questions that may be useful for these discussions include:

  • What is working well?
  • What is not working as well? What suggestions do you both have to improve that aspect of mentoring?
  • Are agreed actions carried through?
  • Are meetings taking place as planned?
  • Is the approach to mentoring working well for the mentee / mentor?
  • What other support would be useful to the mentee?

Some other considerations:

  • What note taking would be useful? Who is responsible for taking a note of agreed actions?
  • Do you book your next meeting at the end of each meeting or have set meeting times?
  • Would it be helpful to identify a key theme for each mentoring session with agreed actions leading up to the next meeting?
  • Who else should be involved? Mentors may be sign-posting to other key contacts for specific aspects of development (e.g. getting feedback on grant application, observation of teaching, interpreting reports / feedback, expertise in specific area)
  • How is the mentee keeping their line manager up to date on progress on development through mentoring and related activity? What is the role of the mentor?

Discussing and clarifying objectives and development goals

  • Mentors can provide support to mentees in completing the participant section of the ECDP Objectives and Targets Form, particularly as a ‘sounding board’ for setting objectives and targets.
  • Looking ahead to development and related actions, agreeing priorities, next steps and related plans

Considering approaches to development (e.g. target networking, 1-2-1 support with feedback, attending a professional development event, linking to an expert in field, etc.)