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Roles and Responsibilities for Mentors

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A mentor is someone who takes interest in the professional and career development of a junior colleague by providing guidance and support. Genuine commitment on the part of both the mentor and mentee is required for a successful mentoring relationship. There are no strict rules on how to mentor, only guidelines and advice. You will have to determine the best approaches for each individual mentoring relationship you establish.

Mentoring roles typically fall into two categories - psychosocial and career. Psychosocial roles serve to enhance the personal aspects of the relationship while career-related roles function to stimulate career advancement for the mentee (Kram, 1985). Here are some examples:



Mentor Roles and Responsibilities


Be an Active Listener:

  • Focus on what the mentee is saying to summarize what was said, in a way that they would agree with
  • Provide uninterrupted time to meet with your mentee
  • Allow mentee the time to explain the situation completely before offering advice
  • Is alert to nonverbal clues

Be a Cheerleader:

  • Provide vocal and enthusiastic support for your mentee's efforts
  • Offer comments to reinforce the belief in positive potential for your mentee to grow beyond the current situation
  • Celebrate the successes of your mentee

Be a Compassionate Supporter:

  • Recognize your mentee as an individual with a private life and value them as a person
  • Listen to your mentee's career concerns and respond appropriately
  • Act as an empathetic sounding board for ideas and concerns expressed by your mentee
  • Establish an environment for open interaction and reflection
  • Offer non-judgmental and sensitive responses to assist in clarification of emotional states
  • Be sensitive to issues of sexual harassment or discrimination of any type
  • Pay attention to your mentee's need for direction, refocus, change and respite

Be a Good Role Model:

  • Demonstrate successful professional behavior (lead by example)
  • Teach the value of integrity
  • Be secure in your own professional status and don't be threatened by your mentee's successes
  • Do not betray confidences
  • Show respect for all views, even for those with which you disagree
  • Provide example of how to treat others
  • Do not be afraid to admit your own ignorance
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Do not use your mentee to further your own goals (i.e. using your mentee as an uncredited research assistant)

Be a Work/Life Integration Coach:

  • Help your mentee plan strategies to achieve mutually agreed upon personal goals
  • Help your mentee evaluate appropriateness of career options in relation to personal values
  • Connect your mentee with other faculty with similar work/life situations
  • Identify resources to help your mentee with issues outside of work

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Be an Advisor:

  • Communicate the informal and formal realities of progression in the institution
  • Define expectations about the different career paths (clinical, research, education or administrative)
  • Recommend appropriate strategies for career direction
  • Review your mentee's development plan on a regular basis
  • Help your mentee to identify obstacles to career progression and to take appropriate action
  • Help your mentee prepare for annual performance reviews and promotion
  • Work with your mentee to identify and understand career-related skills, interests and values
  • Help your mentee plan strategies to achieve mutually agreed upon professional goals
  • Help your mentee identify source of performance issue problems and map out next steps to overcome issues
  • Maintain a steady presence in your mentee's career with meetings, phone calls, emails, etc.

Be an Advocate:

  • Intervene on your mentee's behalf if necessary, representing their concerns to higher authority for redress on specific issues

Be a Broker/Sponsor:

  • Expand your mentee's network of professional contacts, within and outside the immediate institutional circle
  • Help to bring together different mentees who might mutually benefit by helping each other (peer mentoring)
  • Help link your mentee with appropriate educational or employment opportunities
  • Help your mentee identify resources required for career progression
  • Nominate your mentee and encourage them to self-nominate for local/national committee, review panels, and advisory boards; for manuscript reviews, participation in workshops and conferences, and for awards

Be a Coach/Teacher:

  • Help clarify performance goals (long- and short-term) and developmental needs
  • Encourage independent behavior but invests sufficient time in working with your mentee
  • Teach managerial and technical skills
  • Reinforce effective job performance
  • Recommend specific behaviors in which your mentee needs improvement
  • Clarify and communicate institutional goals, objectives policies and procedures
  • Offer learning challenges and opportunities; encourage change when and where needed

Be a Constructive Feedback Provider:

  • Use careful probing to assess readiness of your mentee to accept and benefit from different points of view
  • Provide descriptive feedback based on observations rather than inferences
  • Focus on the most likely strategies and behaviors for meaningful change
  • Avoid owning and solving your mentee's problems
  • Accept reciprocal feedback from your mentee
  • Confront and clarify assumptions, perceptions and issues
  • Do not condemn mistakes, take credit for successes, threaten or lose critical oversight

Be a Networking Agent:

  • Illustrate the importance and "know-how" of networking
  • Identify resources to help your mentee with specific problems
  • Follow up to ensure that the referred resources were helpful
  • Provide letters of recommendation

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© 2014 by Office of Faculty Affairs and Career Development, Wake Forest School of Medicine.

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the WFSM Office of Faculty Affairs and Career Development.

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Evelyn Anthony, MD
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs
Shannon Suggs
Program Coordinator

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