Early-career faculty mentees are usually most interested in becoming oriented with a new institution and location. Mentoring for early-career faculty members focuses on increasing teaching, research, and service skills; navigating the tenure track; creating work/life balances; making community connections; and developing professional networks.

Mid-career and senior mentees aims are usually different and include keeping up with the discipline and learning new skills; sustaining a good work/life balance, building new networks, resources, and support; exploring more varied research interests, and developing academic leadership skills.

In the Mutual Mentoring model, mentees work with their department chairs and school deans to design their own mentoring “hub” of individuals and opportunities that best suits their needs. Mentees can be matched with an appropriate senior faculty member inside or outside their department, select a professional colleague as a mentor, and attend skills workshops (i.e. teaching or grant writing) to create a meaningful array of resources from which to gain support, advice, and skills. The Mutual Mentoring hub will differ among mentees depending on who and what they select.

The Role of the Mentee

Adapted from UMass Amherst's Mary Deane Sorcinelli and Jung H. Yun:

Establishing a Mutual Mentoring network requires early-career faculty to be highly proactive and intentional, two key attributes of successful professional development (Haring, 2005). While some mentoring relationships can and do happen "organically," it is not advisable for early-career faculty to wait for a mentor to choose them or be assigned to them, and then hope that the relationship will prove valuable over time. Today, the pressure to publish often, teach well, earn tenure, and juggle the demands of work/life are simply too great to go it alone. A Mutual Mentoring network functions as a safety net of concerned and interested individuals committed to helping an early-career faculty member achieve success over the short- and long-term.

This section describes some of the ways in which early-career faculty can determine what their mentoring needs are, find mentoring partners who fit those needs on a wide variety of levels, and make the most of their mentoring partners' knowledge, experience, and skills.

Characteristics of a Good Mentee

A good mentee...

  • Proactively identifies what types of knowledge, relationships, and support could be potentially helpful and career-enhancing to a mentoring partner.
  • Recognizes and accommodates the time constraints of his/her mentoring partners.
  • Follows up promptly when a mentoring partner offers to make helpful introductions or referrals.
  • Asks for - and also provides - feedback on how the mentoring relationship is working, or not working.
  • Offers his/her expertise or support whenever appropriate; understands that the benefits of the mentoring relationship can be reciprocal.
  • Suggests specific options and alternatives to improve a mentoring relationship, as needed.
  • Treats all information exchanged with his/her mentoring partners ethically and confidentially.

To-Do List for Mentees

  • Your department may have a formal mentoring program in place. If so, take advantage of this important resource, but keep in mind that the mentor chosen for you {or by you) as part of this program should not be your only source of professional support.
  • Clarify your needs before you begin to identify or approach potential mentoring partners. "Drill down" to the specifics whenever possible (i.e., asking someone for "help with time management" is different from asking for "help understanding which types of departmental service commitments will be most manageable while you're preparing for mini-tenure"). Knowing what you need helps others determine if they have relevant or useful knowledge to share with you.
  • For newcomers to an institution (or academia at large), it is often difficult to know what questions to ask a mentoring partner, and/or what information is necessary to succeed. "Near peers," colleagues who are close to your career level, can be particularly invaluable in such situations because their experiences as newcomers are still reasonably fresh.
    • Helpful "global" questions to ask include:
      • What do you wish you would have known when you first arrived?
      • What were the most unexpected surprises or obstacles that you encountered along the way?
      • What is the most valuable thing you've done in support of your teaching/research/service, etc.?
  • Ask some key colleagues who they think you should approach about your specific subjects of interest. Keep in mind that there are many different ways that you can "click" with a mentoring partner. Whose research methods are closest to your own? Who teaches classes similar in size to yours? Who uses a particular classroom technology that you're interested in adopting? Who seems like the best overall personality match?
  • Extend your mentoring network beyond departmental colleagues. Identify external scholars who have significant overlap with your academic specialization. These mentors may serve as knowledgeable reviewers of your research and grant proposals. They can introduce you to a broader network of scholars, and can give you information about other successful academic models and resources.
  • Look for mentoring partners outside the faculty ranks. A talented, tech-savvy student may be invaluable in helping you navigate the learning curve of a new class management system, while a librarian specializing in your discipline may be helpful in suggesting hard-to- find resources for a research project.
  • After engaging with your new mentoring partners, clarify expectations as early as possible: yours and theirs. Failed mentoring relationships are often the ult of unmet and/or unrealistic expectations. Try to decide {or get a clear sense of) how often the two of you would like to or are able to meet; whether your interaction will be mostly in-person or online;  if your mentoring partnership will cover more general topics or more specific ones; if there will be a product or outcome to signal the end of the mentoring relationship, etc.
  • Thank and acknowledge your mentoring partners whenever possible and appropriate.
  • Remember that information shared by your mentoring partners is confidential.

Checklist for Mentees

There are certain times in your career when mentoring can help you grow and develop. Before starting a mentoring partnership, it is wise to assess your readiness to pursue a mentoring partnership. Take a few minutes to read the following statements and make sure you can agree with at least eight of them.

  1. I can identify my goals and expectations for being in a partnership.
  2. I can communicate my goals clearly with my mentor.
  3. I will take the initiative throughout the partnership.
  4. I will accept personal responsibility for my success.
  5. I will exhibit openness and receptivity to feedback and coaching.
  6. I will have a strong commitment to the partnership.
  7. I do embrace a desire to learn and grow.
  8. I do often seek out opportunities to learn and grow.
  9. I do understand my mentor is not a replacement for my manager.
  10. I will take appropriate risks, stretching beyond my comfort level in order to knowledge and skills.

If you answered yes to at least eight of these success factors, you are a good candidate for a mentoring partnership. It is your responsibility to own the mentoring partnership and you must have confidence in this role. The value you add will enhance your success. If you could not answer yes to at least eight, ask yourself “what can I change or work on?”.