Mentoring: From the Mentor’s Perspective
You’re correct if you’ve realized that finding a mentor can facilitate your professional and personal growth during graduate school. Research on the benefits of having a mentor show that a student who has a mentor “is likely to become a more satisfied, successful, and confident professional psychologist.” (Johnson 2007, p. 261).
But, before you begin your search for the perfect mentor, it is important to clarify the expectations you have for your mentor as well as consider the expectations your mentor may have for you.
What Should You Expect From a Mentor?
Both support and challenge: A mentor is an experienced faculty member or supervisor who will provide you with knowledge and advice. However, you can also expect your mentor to challenge your personal and professional growth (Johnson, 2006). In my mentoring relationship with Dio, I have provided support for her to begin a research agenda, recommendations for practicum training and advice about course electives. In addition to this support, I have challenged her to stretch beyond her comfort zone and have provided constructive as well as encouraging feedback.
A developmental progression: By definition, mentoring relationships are dynamic and change over time. In the beginning, the mentor is likely to provide you with structure, advice and knowledge. Over time, the relationship will change and become more reciprocal and mutual. In the beginning of our relationship, I invited Dio to join me in existing research projects. However, in the last year, she has invited me to join in research projects that she has initiated.
What Should a Mentor Expect From You?
Self-awareness: Mentors want students who are willing to engage in reflective self-evaluation. An ability to engage in meta-awareness is an essential skill for a psychologist-in-training. Your mentor can only take you as far as you are willing to go; are you willing to step back and evaluate why you have excelled in some training environments and not in others? Or, explore information about how peers, supervisors and faculty perceive your strengths and growing edges? A willingness to cultivate multiple resources: Your mentor doesn’t want to create a dependent relationship. Rather, your mentor will want you to develop a network of mentors who can meet your different needs. Dio and I have had honest discussion about the areas where I can contribute to her development and those areas where she will need to find additional mentors. For example, I can provide support in clinical training and guidance in balancing her personal and professional identity; but she has found other mentors to facilitate her skills in neuropsychological assessment.
A good mentor can make a significant difference in the quality of your graduate training. And an honest discussion about mutual expectations will provide a strong foundation for a relationship that will grow and change over the course of your training.
Johnson, W. B. (2006). On being a mentor: A guide for higher education faculty. Nahwah, NJ: Erlbaum;
Johnson, W. B. (2007). Transformational supervision: When supervisors mentor. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 38, 259-267.