Mentoring: Guiding Principles for Mentees

The goal of this program is to implement a support structure for faculty within the department as we understand that a variety of skills are needed to develop a successful career in academia. Our program strives to enhance your academic experience by providing you with a discussion series and faculty mentors from inside and outside the department ready to assist you with career development.

Philosophy and concepts from John Hopkins School of Medicine, University of California - San Francisco, and recent academic literature regarding mentoring in academic medicine[1] have been thoroughly considered, and specifically adapted for this program, departmental size, structure, and culture. As such, the following guidelines and expectations have been compiled to initiate and support your experience.

Preparing for Your Role and Understanding Others

Advisor or Mentor: Is There a Difference?

In practice, yes, there is a difference. An advisor is an assigned person with specialized knowledge who delivers necessary and pertinent information at the request of an individual. They often are tasked to monitor progress. In stark contrast, a mentor is a colleague with a proven track record of leadership and success, and who serves as a combination of teacher, guide and advocate. Mentors take on the responsibility of seeing out the growth and development of an individual. The exchange between individuals consists of an interplay that is more personal in nature.[2] As such, a mentee is one who actively seeks practical guidance for dealing with professional dilemmas and strategies for career progression.

You should care because too often mentors do not understand how their department defines the difference. Defining what this means to our participants clarifies the roles and allows you to move forward with confidence and clear expectations.

The department expects your mentor to share their experiences, perspectives, and strategies for success in academia. We anticipate that they will discuss encountered challenges, their decision-making processes, actions they took and we encourage them to articulate why and how their examples relate to your current situation. Your mentor is NOT simply an information disposal, parent, supervisor, collaborator or grant magnet. Instead, they are your guiding light, trusted teacher and ally. Respond and tap into their experience and knowledge accordingly.

Communication & Partnership Dynamics

Working within the traditional conceptualization of the mentor-mentee partnership can give rise to the assumption that it is only a hierarchical dynamic. In this case, discourse can easily fall into a one-way, top-down path. When appropriate, the department encourages mentors to embrace an openness toward learning from those they guide and lead. We believe that such openness could add refreshing or alternative insight that can equalize this dynamic and give rise to bidirectional communication.

Getting Started

There are several ways you can connect to a potential mentee. Below are a few options:

  • Complete a brief electronic “Interest in Mentorship” form via the Education Office.
  • Authorize the Education Office to upload your professional profile to our password protected mentor match database. Profiles can only be viewed by those enrolled in the Department of Medicine program.
  • Get the word out at your section meetings or electronic communication that you are seeking mentorship.

The First Meeting

Requests and Scheduling

Studies have shown that partnerships work best when the mentee selects their mentor and manages the partnership. As such, approaching and requesting mentorship is initiated by the mentee. The onus of scheduling the first and subsequent meetings is also on the mentee. Mentees may contact potential mentors via email, phone or in-person approach. If you have provided your information to the Education Office and authorized an online professional profile for use on the Mentor Match software, you may research, assess possible compatibility/shared interests, and contact potential mentors via email for mentorship.

Expectations & Accountability to Each Other: The Agreement

(If you haven’t already received these, check with the Department of Medicine Education Office for copies of “First Session Guide to Success” and the “Academic Activity Plan.”)

At the first meeting, we encourage partnerships to utilize the “Guide to Success” to give the initial interaction direction and purpose. The mentee is expected to provide these documents for reference and be prepared to discuss. The purpose of this meeting is to communicate your professional goals to your mentor and allow them time to familiarize themselves your goals. The original form will remain with you so you can track and assess progress throughout the year. It is suggested that you leave a copy with your mentor for their reference. This guide will ultimately serve as the official agreement with terms for confidentiality, closure or continuance of the partnership addressed.

Recognize Values and Limitations

Realize that your mentor will be giving their time to share their “lessons learned” and assisting you with the expansion of your networks. Come to your meetings prepared and be cognizant of their time. Be open to the information offered. Recognize that some of their guidance may not seem directly related at this time, but it could prove useful at a later point. Also, some guidance may not coincide with your work style or approach. This happens. Ultimately, it will be your choice as to how you will incorporate your mentor’s insights and tailor them to your own approach. Finally, realize that all of your needs cannot be address by one person for the entire duration of your career here. Consider the time you want to spend with your mentor and realize when it is time to move on. Expand your support team and utilize others formally or informally to address your additional needs.

When working through the agreement be sure to set realistic expectations of yourself! As you enter into agreement with your mentor realize that this is a formal commit to a partnership. Hold up your end of the agreement. If you are going to engage in it, do it with quality, self-direct, and take initiative to maintain the partnership.

Working Through The Partnership

ABCs of Mentoring

In your role as mentee, we expect mentors to offer purposeful career guidance based on your self-vision. Accordingly, there are some basics to career guidance that you should be aware of when engaging with your mentor:

  • Set your own goals.
  • Actively seek feedback and ask questions.
  • Keep accurate record of your progress and reflect on what happens.
  • Own your failures and share your thoughts.
  • Use recommendations and information to improve your performance.
  • Observe your mentor solve problems, make decisions, manage others.
  • Respectfully give reasons as to why you choose not to adopt recommendations.
  • Be receptive of feedback.
  • Show your appreciation of their time.
  • Be sensitive about their background and differences.
  • Discuss “survival skills.”
  • Inquire about additional professional development opportunities.
  • Don’t take advantage or abuse your mentors time and trust.
  • Don’t make assumptions, ask for clarification.
  • Don’t expect them to do the work for you.
  • Don’t become best friends or try to force a friendship.

Personal Reflection and Formal Evaluation

There will be two evaluations. First, you will have the opportunity to reflect on your experience with your mentor. You will receive a survey and set of prompt questions so can confidentially express your subjective experience. This is NOT an evaluation your mentor and thus, a document that will follow the individual. Instead, this is an evaluation of your personal experience mentoring overall. Second, you will have the opportunity to bi-annually assess the program itself (i.e., structure, available resources and support).


[1] Cho, C., Radhika, R., and Feldman, M. (2011). Defining the Ideal Qualities of Mentorship: A Qualitative Analysis of the characteristics of Outstanding Mentors. The American Journal of Medicine. Vol 124 (5), pp. 453-458.

Detsky, A. (2011). Academic Mentoring-How to Give It and How to Get It. Journal of American Medical Association Vol. 297 (19).

Sambunjak, D., Straus, S., and Marusie, A. (2006). Mentoring in Academic Medicine: A Systematic Review. Journal of American Medical Association. Vol. 6 (9).

Tobin, M. (2004). Mentoring: Seven Roles and Some Specifics. American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine. Vol 170, pp. 114-117.

Abbott, I. (2001). Working with a Mentor: 50 Practical Suggestions for Success. NALP.

[2] Tekian, A., Jalovecky, M., and Hruska, L. (2001). The Impact of Mentoring and Advising At-risk Underrepresented Minority Students on Medical School Performance. Academic Medicine: Educating Physicians 76 (12), pp. 1264.