Reflections on Your Mentoring Journey
How do you begin to reflect on your own mentoring journey? One of the first things you can do is to consider how you define mentoring and the different elements that comprise a mentoring relationship. This list is not exhaustive. It can, however, serve as a guide to help you prepare for your first meeting with a new mentee as you get to know each other. We invite you to answer the questions at various stages of your mentoring relationship. As you change, your needs change, and the needs of your mentee will change. Taking time to reflect can help you become aware of when those changes occur.
Reflections for Mentors
What is the importance of context?
“All mentoring relationships are embedded in context. Context influences how we perceive reality, what we see as possible and achievable.” (Zachary, The Mentor’s Guide, 33)
What are the contexts that shape how you mentor?
- What is a mentoring experience that impacted you personally?
- What is a mentoring experience that impacted you professionally?
- How did one or both shape your expectations/assumptions of faculty, students, staff?
- How did it shape your expectations/assumptions of yourself?
- How did it shape your expectations/assumptions about mentoring?
What is the context of culture?
- Culture is a broad term that may include someone’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, politics, communication styles.
- Prior to accepting a mentee, how do you prepare to understand these different aspects of your mentee’s identity?
- What similarities and differences do you have with the mentee?
- How can these similarities and differences support or hinder the development of a relationship with your mentee?
We all want to be seen. The practice of Bearing Witness is one way of letting your mentee know “I SEE you.” To bear witness is to contemplate the following:
- Who is before you?
- What ideas about them do you need to take in or let go?
- What is before you
- What is the situation being experienced, described?
- What ideas about it do you need to take in or let go?
- What do they need?
- What do they say they need?
- How do you ask what they need?
- How can you serve them?
- How can you listen?
- How can you help them decide what they need and get it?
- What are your next steps? Individually? Together?
Good mentoring changes lives. To offer the mentoring that your mentee wants, reflect first on how mentoring has changed your life and why: how has mentoring made you the person who you are. Then ask yourself: How can I be the type of mentor that helps a mentee be/come the person they have yet to imagine?
Reflections for Mentees
After reflecting on the elements of a strong mentoring relationship, reflect on the questions below. Responses to both sets of questions can help you better understand what you need from a mentor, why, and when. For example, you may need different types of mentors at different points in your career and life. Most importantly, your answers can help you trace your own mentoring journey.
First Things First
- Why do you want/need a mentor?
- What are 3 things you want your mentor to know/not know about you?
- What are 3 things you want to know/not know about your mentor?
The Mentoring Journey
- Describe your mentoring experiences (at any stage) in one sentence
- What words or phrases stick out to you the most?
- Reflect on 2 experiences that were foundational in helping you define mentoring?
- What to do and what not to do?
- Describe 3-5 expectations you have about mentoring based on your experiences. Are these expectations:
- aligned with your visions for success?
- aligned with your learning and living values?
- Describe your learning style and needs.
- Describe your communication style.
- Do you need consistent feedback? Monthly check-ins? Reminders? Support? Encouragement?
- What do you want to learn from a mentor or mentors?
- What skills or knowledge does the mentor have to help you?
- Describe 3 reasons you want/need a mentor.
- What assumptions do you have about a mentor (e.g., needs to be in field)?
- What are 3 things that are non-negotiable in your mentor (e.g., same sex/gender, race)?
- What agreements do you need to have with your mentor (e.g., communication)?
Stages of Developing a Mentoring Relationship
At what stage is your mentoring relationship? Knowing this will help you collaborate with your mentor to co-create what you need. Stages can be defined in many ways. We liked to suggest the following.
- Reflection: What questions can you ask yourself and your mentor to decide if this is the right relationship for you?
- Initiation: How will you and your mentor learn about each other?
- Cultivation: How will you and your mentor grow and maintain your relationship?
- Separation: How will you and your mentor know when it is time to move on and how do you do this amicably?
- Redefinition: How do you and your mentor continue your relationship as you move from mentee to colleague and, even, to mentor?
Good mentoring changes lives. To get the mentoring you need, reflect first on what makes you, the mentee, the person who you are. Then ask yourself: What type of mentor can help me be/come the person I have yet to imagine?