The selection of mentors should be based on certain characteristics that facilitate the initiation, sustainability, and value-add for both mentors and mentees.
While it is good practice to be proactive about identifying potential mentors, assistant professors should not be required to identify mentors independently. Department chairs, division chiefs, vice chairs (e.g., faculty development or research), and colleagues are good sources for mentor recommendations. They can take responsibility for identifying interested and skilled mentors as well as supporting faculty in connecting with appropriate mentors.
Guidelines for Mentor Selection
1. Develop a role description of the mentor in your program. Obtain the necessary feedback from mentors (at various career stages, not exclusive to senior mentors), and from your department/division leadership. The description should include big picture information (such as overarching goals from mentoring) and practical expectations (frequency of meetings; desired skill sets).
Strive to create alignment between the role description, the perceptions of mentors of that role, and the expectations of leadership.
2. Write and distribute widely a Call for Mentors announcement. The announcement should include: role description, information about commitment (number of hours, meetings), the criteria that the program leadership will use in selecting mentors, any financial, or other rewards or recognitions, any particular emphases you wish to see (for example, seeking mentors with expertise in particular topics), the term limit of the relationship, and whether mentors are sought within your department/division or broadly.
Consider making individual solicitations to faculty who you believe have the appropriate qualities to serve as mentors.
3. Within or Outside the Department? Often, there are pros and cons to selection of mentors from within or outside the department/ division. Pros of same-department/division mentors include greater efficacy in sponsorship and advocating for mentee needs; a deeper understanding of the culture and dynamics within the unit; and the opportunity for a rewarding long-term relationship that can be instrumental to career advancement. On the other hand, the cons include proximity to decisions affecting the mentee’s success in ways that can interfere with dispassionate advice or active sponsorship, and breach of confidence/trust issues.
Concerns by the mentees that stem from dynamics within the unit are also often expressed by mentees in small units. There may also be issues of resources, competition and senior-junior dynamics that are detrimental, rather than enhancing, to mentee success.
4. Indicate a deadline for receiving an application and keep the application simple and short [EXAMPLE]. Develop applications using online tools (Google forms, Smartsheet).
Leverage the use of email distribution lists, flyers at events/faculty meetings, and personal networks to distribute the announcement.
5. Convene a small group of program leaders to select the mentors. Selection criteria may include:
- Interest in contributing to the mentoring proces
- Availability (time, distance) for planned meetings.
- Skill set (e.g., expertise pertinent to the needs of the assistant professor).
- Relevant research, clinical, education, and teaching interests.
- Personal characteristics (e.g., personality, approach, life experiences).
- Formal mentor education.
Assign a method by which all mentor applications should be evaluated equally in order to mitigate implicit biases. Use criteria that combine indicators of readiness and indicators of skills. See below section on mentor training and skills.
Question Prompts for Mentor Applications or Interviews
- What skills and expertise does the mentor need to successfully fulfill your program goals?
- Does this mentor have enough seniority/clout in order to advocate within Stanford, the department, division or section?
- What is the mentor’s success track record in mentoring junior faculty?
- Can the mentor help navigate the junior faculty’s career advancement successfully in the department?
- Can the mentor help mentee identify other potential members of a mentoring team and help model effective methods of sharing knowledge and decisions across multidisciplinary teams?
- Can the mentor help align institutional/professional cultures and norms with the junior faculty’s needs for inclusion, belonging, and work-life balance?
It is almost always best to have a mentor who is not the direct supervisor (e.g., division chief) of the mentee. A supervisor who has multiple roles and responsibilities with regard to the clinic, division, and department that may be in conflict with the best interest of a particular faculty member. A mentor who is not a direct supervisor or superior will provide an opportunity for the mentee to explore career plans and discuss barriers and challenges one is facing without reservation.