Peer mentors are individuals at similar career stages.
A near-peer (or step-ahead peer) is a mentor who has successfully advanced in some measure beyond the career path of the mentee.
What is peer mentoring?
Peer and near-peer mentoring comprises critical network mentoring as opposed to the traditional senior mentor and one junior mentee dyad. This form of mentoring is especially adaptable for a group setting where the group agrees to focus on a single goal, such as increasing publications, obtaining grants, learning a specific skill, or work/life balance.
Psychological safety is a key attribute of peer and near-peer mentoring; i.e., high-quality interactions where individuals are authentic, emotionally aware, and empathic (and even vulnerable). The higher the quality of interactions, the higher the safety and the more learning is realized.
Peer mentors offer:
- Psychosocial support, such as friendship, acceptance, confirmation, mutuality, emotional support, empathy, and personal feedback;
- Mutual professional development; and
- Opportunities for collaborative problem-solving in a non-hierarchical setting.
Near-peer mentors offer:
- More experience compared to peers, but not so senior to have trouble relating to the experience of more junior colleagues;
- Sharing of tacit knowledge and information;
- Psychosocial support and counseling; and
- Career-related next-step strategies, tactical coaching, and job-related feedback.
Practical implications for mentees
- Deliberately create your network: Identify the current ‘peer’ and ‘near-peer’ mentors in your network in each of the following categories: Colleagues in your current or previous departments; colleagues from your training and education; individuals you met at professional meetings/conferences; family members; outside friends/community; your previous mentor(s); your current chair/chief.
- Do you have any categories with no individuals identified? If yes, can you think of individuals in this category(ies) to seek out for advice/guidance/ their thoughts?
- Keep your network alive: How frequently do you talk/reach out to these individuals? Identify individuals that you haven’t kept in touch with. Consider writing a quick note to them updating them on your recent news, checking-in on them and/or planning your next meeting/conversation.
- Continue to use your network as you move up in your faculty career. The peer mentors with whom you have reciprocated psychosocial support will grow to reciprocate career-related mentoring and support (e.g., membership of organizations or committees, formal leadership roles and other opportunities).
Practical implications for mentors
- Consider the demographics of your peer and near-peer mentees: What steps can you take to cultivate psychological safety in order to ensure high-quality mentoring?
- Continue behaviors that establish trust and support psychological safety: Friendship, gestures of acceptance, inclusion, and confirmation; mutuality (seeking information/support as well as giving support); practicing empathy (active listening); offering personal and constructive feedback; sharing of resources and opportunities. What are possible opportunities where you could exhibit some of these behaviors towards a colleague? What facilitates that to happen well? What obstacles might there be, and how might you overcome them?