We recommend that you discuss and clarify expectations in your mentoring relationships to maximize your time together and eliminate questions about the perceptions, views, and responses coming from mentees or mentors. By developing and agreeing upon expectations, you can minimize the chance of running into potential problems.
Clarify roles and responsibilities.
- Clarify in advance whether you are seeking a limited time commitment for a specific piece of advice or an ongoing relationship. A busy mentor may be willing to help you with a single situation but would otherwise not have time for an ongoing relationship.
- Clarify the specific need or question for which you are seeking advice at initial contact. This helps both the mentor and the mentee determine the possibility of a mutual relationship.
- Evaluate as soon as possible whether the fit will be good: how hard/easy it was to meet the mentor, the value of the mentor's feedback, and the ease of interaction.
- Mentors should be realistic about what they can do for their mentees and should help the mentees understand what kinds of assistance they can expect.
- Mentors should explore what mentees need and help them develop a productive balance between seeking help and taking on more responsibility as they move toward independence.
- Clarify expectations regarding papers and other scholarly work. Determine authorship on key papers up front.
Set realistic goals and develop a plan.
Mentors can help mentees develop a set of realistic goals and plans. You may want to consider creating a contract.
- Work together to develop an academic plan that includes short-term goals, long-term goals, and a time frame for reaching these goals.
- Agree on a time to update progress.
- Meet regularly to formally discuss the mentee's progress as well as any additional training and experiences needed to achieve the defined goals.
- Agree to modify the academic plan if necessary.