Early Career Psychologist Column

Mentorship Benefits for Early Career Psychologists


By Diann Gaalema, PhD, and Adriana Falco, PhD

Mentors assist in forming the developmental trajectory of the careers of future psychologists. While having a mentor is not necessary for success in one's chosen career, having a strong relationship with a mentor can strengthen career development.1,2 Early career psychologists (ECPs) are at a unique point in our careers. Not only are we still looking to mentors for guidance on how to approach the shifts in our career and to help us balance our career and personal goals3 even as we strive for our own independence in our career, but we are often approached to become mentors for the next generation of psychologists. Some of us may have had chances to serve as mentors in graduate school, but for many ECPs, this is a novel experience.

It may seem like this is exactly the time ECPs can least afford to donate their time to mentoring others. The demands of starting a new research career or getting licensure and building a client base are looming. Relocations may be ahead in the future, complicating long-term mentor relationships. However, modern ECPs may be able to reform some flaws in our previous systems of mentoring. We may even have a special insight into the process as we are fresh from being mentored. Only a generation ago, research was rife with findings of minority groups, particularly women, not benefitting from existing mentorship structures in business and academia.4,5,6 As the professional and academic structures have begun to become more inclusive, it has become clear that women and ethnic and cultural minorities not only benefit from strong mentor relationships, but may have a larger need for mentoring to battle unique psychosocial and professional challenges. ECPs are being comprised of far more females than males (over 70% of psychology PhDs are currently being achieved by women). 7 If more ECPs participate as mentors, it will allow both male and female students to have greater access to female mentors, which may have benefits for both students and the profession at large. Having access to female mentors may assist with attrition of women as they make their way to tenured positions in academic settings. Not only does mentoring bring advantages to our institutional surroundings, but as ECPs, we benefit as well. Taking part in even early, informal mentoring relationships may help solidify mentoring skills for later, more in-depth mentoring relationships. These skills will allow us to encourage maximum potential from our future protégés, benefiting both members of the relationship. No matter what your motivation is, the mentoring process will be stronger for the inclusion of ECPs.

References

1 Cronan-Hillix, T., Gensheimer, L.K., Cronan-Hillix, W.A., & Davidson, W.S. (1986). Students' views of mentors in psychology graduate training. Teaching of Psychology, 13 (3), 123-127.

2 Koberg, C.S., Boss, R.W., & Goodman, E. (1998). Factors and outcomes associated with mentoring among health-care professionals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 53 (1), 58-72.

3 Green, A.G., & Hawley, G.C. (2009). Early career psychologists: understanding, engaging, and mentoring tomorrow's leaders. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40 (2), 206-212.

4 Merriam, S. (1983). Mentors and protégés: a critical review of the literature. Adult Education Quarterly, 33 (3), 161-173.

5 Bogat, G.A., & Redner, R.L. (1985). How mentoring affects the professional development of women in psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 16 (6), 851-859.

6 Chandler, C. (1996). Mentoring and women in academia: reevaluating the traditional model. NWSA Journal, 8 (3), 79-100.

7 Burrelli, J. (2008). Infobrief: thirty-three years of women in S&E faculty positions. Retrieved from http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/