Carnegie Mellon University

Guide for the Mentor

Each mentoring relationship is unique and must be developed to match the needs of the mentee and the resources the mentor brings to the relationship.

Qualities of Effective Mentors:

  •  Commitment to the time required for meeting and advising
  • Commitment to reviewing the mentee’s work
  • Guidance on setting realistic career vision/goals/ objectives
  • Collaborative development of appropriate goals and strategies for achieving goals
  • Guidance and resources for developing academic competencies, in scholarly research, teaching, scholarly presentations, and overall career management
  • Facilitation in the development of academic networks
  • Careful and active listening, ability to work across boundaries of gender/race/ethnicity/sexual orientation/ culture/religion 
  • Provision of constructive feedback
  • Attention to measuring progress
  • Consideration of sponsorship when appropriate and possible
  • Maintenance of confidentiality when appropriate and creation of an environment of trust
  • Respect for personal boundaries

Ideas for successful mentors:

Recognize and evaluate what you can offer a mentee (keeping in mind that no single mentor can fulfill every mentoring function) and look for additional resources or mentors that might help the mentee with specific questions.

Negotiate the parameters and responsibilities of the relationship: what kinds of topics will you talk about? How often and under what circumstances will meetings take place? What does the mentee expect from the relationship? What do you expect of the mentee? While expectations can be renegotiated they should be established early to avoid misunderstandings.

Give constructive feedback and praise when warranted. Praise is most useful when accompanied by descriptive statements about why something was done well.

Give criticism when warranted, using descriptive statements about behavior rather than judgmental statements, and always include specific suggestions for improvement. Point your mentee to any available institutional support for career development. 

If possible, be available to critically and constructively read proposals and papers. 

Advocacy is a key part of mentoring.  Argue in favor of the mentee for resources within your department.  If possible, promote your mentee within the profession.

Suggest available institutional support to further the mentee’s career development.

Advise on tenure and promotion requirements and processes.

Provide advice on university, college and departmental policies, and explain unwritten rules.

Suggest strategies for effective teaching, grading and writing of grant proposals.

Make introductions to colleagues in other departments.

Propose effective ways of interacting with students and colleagues.

Suggest how to say “no” to certain demands on time.

Discuss research, publication and conference presentations.

Work pro-actively to maintain the relationship—this may include email or phone contact or dropping by the mentee’s office between formal meetings.  Tell the mentee if s/he asks for too little or too much of your time.

Share knowledge of informal rules for advancement and skills for showcasing the mentee’s work. Give perspective on long-term career planning: advise on balancing teaching, research and service, and setting professional priorities

Avoid confrontation and do not prevent mentees from taking reasonable risks in meeting their objectives.

Get help for your mentee when they need it—find ways to talk with other faculty without compromising the confidentiality of your relationship with the mentee.

Adapted from:

  • Cornell University, Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, Mentoring
  • University of Washington-Oshkosh’s “Mentoring Benefits and Roles”
  • Columbia University, “Guide to Best Practices in Faculty Mentoring”