Optimizing a Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Effective networking and mentorship are critical determinants of academic success.1 Trainees that have strong, committed mentors are more likely to exhibit higher research productivity (publications and grants), career retention, promotion, and personal development.2 Given the positive effects of mentorship, fellows should understand what comprises a good mentor-mentee relationship and how to optimize the mentoring process.
In general, a good mentee has a positive and enthusiastic attitude, is interested in academic growth, expresses a willingness to learn, and is receptive to critical feedback. Successful mentees learn from the experience and counsel of others, ask questions and indicate when help is needed. They do not expect benefits that are not earned and are willing to accept the strengths of their mentor along with their limitations.
A good mentor is patient, interested in teaching, and genuinely invested in their mentee’s goals. A skilled mentor is often an expert in their field, encourages open communication, provides structured learning opportunities, and facilitates career and personal development. At times, multiple mentors may be desirable to address different domains (career, research, and social/interpersonal development).
The actual mentoring process may be optimized by:
- Identifying shared interests, goals, strengths and needs
- Setting ground rules and mutual expectations
- Planning meetings with clear agendas
- Defining goals and ways to track progress
- Having ongoing bi-directional feedback
Think about what you need for your own career development and identify an individual who can facilitate your progress. Optimizing a mentoring relationship is often a dynamic process that, when done well, can be rewarding for everyone involved.
- Humphrey HJ Mentoring in Academic Medicine, 1st Ed: Teaching Medicine. American College of Physicians 2010
- Sambunjak D, Straus SE, Marusic A Mentoring in academic medicine: a systematic review. JAMA 2006;296:1103-1115