Documents for Mentors
The Mentor Role
The role of the mentor is a powerful one and the potential impact of your presence in your mentee’s life should not be taken lightly. However, that does not mean that to be a mentor you have to be perfect. You just need to remember your responsibility and work to best support your mentee in achieving their goals and growing—both in their career and in their life.
Anyone can be a mentor. But a good mentor works to help their mentee achieve their goals by engaging—or not engaging—in the following behaviors:
Mentor DOs and DON’Ts
The key DOs and DON’Ts for mentees are displayed in a separate graphic handout for you to use as a quick reminder. Those items are explained in detail below:
- Set boundaries: Work with your mentee to establish how much time, energy, etc. you are willing to commit to the relationship. Let your mentee know the style and frequency of communication that works best for you. Even something as seemingly small as what they call you is a boundary, and you should discuss what you are comfortable with up front.
- Listen: Engage in active listening (handout provided) and try to really absorb what your mentee tells you. Try to remember that no mentee’s experience will be exactly like your own, be open to hearing experiences and opinions that don’t match your own, and truly listen when your mentee speaks. Don’t be distracted. Don’t project your opinion onto their feelings.
- Express care: Show your mentee they matter to you. Act as their mirror to reflect to them all they are and all they can be. Having a human connection with your mentee can spur positive change and encourage them on their path towards their goals in ways that a more impersonal mentor-mentee relationship may not. Express empathy when they struggle and encourage them.
- Model: Don’t just say, do. Lead by example.
- Advise: Provide insight from your experiences, but don’t instruct them how to live their life. Help your mentee develop in their hard and soft skills, and help keep them informed on the ins and outs of working as a healthcare provider in Oregon.
- Be honest: Your mistakes can be the most valuable learning tool for your mentee, so be sure to tell them about what you did wrong or what you wish you would have done in addition to offering advice. This can not only deepen trust in the relationship, it can also help calm the fears of your mentee, who may be overwhelmed by the prospect of failure. Additionally, honest communication becomes even more important if you feel things are not going well in your mentor-mentee relationship. You can refer back to the expectations you set of one another and talk openly about how you feel those are not being honored, if such a need arises.
- Support and promote: Build up their confidence, be their cheerleader; as best you can, nurture their career growth. Don’t give them a job, but you may have connections you can leverage. Help your mentee achieve their goals by using the resources you have and they do not have. Be their champion. However, do not do the work for them. Simply act as their bridge to success.
- Be reliable: If you set up a time to connect with your mentee, make sure you are on time. Stick to your commitments with your mentee. Showing up late, blowing off check-ins, or not responding to them are great ways to broadcast that you don’t value them or the relationship, even if that is not your intention.
- Micromanage: Let your mentee make their own decisions. Do not tell them the exact steps to take but guide them on the path. Your mentee cannot grow if you do not let them.
- Ignore context: Your mentee has had a different life than you. Their experiences may be different from yours for various reasons, such as race, gender, age, geographic location, etc. It is important when you listen to their stories and offer advice to think about how a piece of advice will affect another person whose perceptions may be completely different than your own. Also do not forget that your mentee has responsibilities outside of your relationship, and those responsibilities may occasionally conflict with your mentor-mentee relationship. Patience, empathy, and understanding are important tools in these times.
- Confuse mentorship with friendship: You and your mentee can certainly be close, but try to avoid crossing the line into friendship. As a mentor you inherently hold a position of power in the relationship, and this dynamic can make friendships potentially confusing or inappropriate. If you want a more casual, friendly relationship style with your mentee, that’s totally fine, just be sure to establish that when you set your expectations so that there is no confusion over the boundaries of your relationship with your mentee.
- Criticize: Challenging your mentee is different than criticizing them. You should push your mentee to do their best, but do not ever shame them for not accomplishing their goals, especially on the first attempt. Failure should be seen as an opportunity for reflection and growth, not punishment.
- Overextend: You know your time and capabilities. If you know you have limited time to devote to your mentee, don’t encourage them to contact you “whenever.” Likewise, don’t lead them to believe you have connections and can assist them in achieving their goals in ways you cannot follow through on. Manage expectations of what you as a mentor can contribute to the relationship from the very beginning, so that your mentee does not make asks of you that you cannot deliver on.
- Gossip: No trust can be built within the mentor-mentee relationship if there is a risk of one party in the relationship sharing private details with others outside of the relationship. Respect your mentee’s privacy and maintain ethical behavior.
Additionally, don’t hesitate to reach out to your mentee if needed. The program is designed to have mentees initiate and maintain contact with their mentor. However, many mentees may be intimidated or not want to feel like a burden to their mentor. If you haven’t heard from your mentee in a while it never hurts to reach out and check in with them. It will make them feel cared about and valued.