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Mentoring Resources & Best Practices

ISU Library Mentoring Program - resources, guidelines, & best practices

Adapted from ISU ADVANCE / Provost Office pdf "The Mentoring Relationship,"  which is the information that ISU faculty receive.This version has been adapted to be more Library-specific. 


The Challenges of Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring relationships are dynamic in nature, and each one will be unique.  There are, however, several easily avoidable pitfalls for any mentoring relationship:

  • Overly pronounced concern for mentoring partner's time:  Mentees may be hesitant to "bother" their mentors with "silly questions" when they are obviously such busy people. Conversely, mentors who are not regularly asked for help often do not wish to seem pushy and thus do not contact their mentees without express invitation.  This concern for the mentoring partner's freedom, time and independence can have a negative impact on the usefulness of the mentoring relationship.  A large part of the success of a mentoring  relationship lies in the trust that builds up over time when mentors and mentees get to know one another. This trust is what will allow the mentee to ask important questions about being effective as an academic librarian / archivist and get honest answers.  Effective mentoring partnerships are the result of efforts to meet and/or communicate outside formal departmental events.

    It is important for both the mentor and the mentee to be proactive in the relationship so that the mentee gets the support they need for professional success.  Mentors cannot begin to help if they do not know what the mentees' questions and concerns are. Mentees may not feel comfortable in asking for help if they are not sure of their mentor's availability / commitment to the relationship.
    • Schedule regular meetings!  You cannot expect to achieve trust in a relationship or get to know one another if you both don't also commit time toward developing that relationship. Realize that unscheduled commitments may tend to fall through the cracks and be neglected. Agree to a meeting schedule with your mentoring partner, get those on your respective calendars, and honor those meetings.
    • Time at a premium?  Consider setting up your own breakfast, lunch, coffee or dinner opportunity with your mentoring partner to enhance the trust and collegiality necessary for an honest exchange.
       
  • Unrealistic expectations:  Mentees' expectations for their mentoring partners can be unrealistic.  One or two mentors cannot be the only resource on every topic.  Mentors should be able to admit that they do not have experise in a particular areas, but should then look for other people who might be appropriate resources on that topic.  Mentees should also be looking for additional mentors to help them get their questions answered.
     
  • Relationships that don't gel:  Often, mentors are assigned to mentees without the input of either party.  This is not necessarily negative: research shows that assigned mentors are as effective as mentors chosen by the mentee.  However, it is important to remember that, through no fault of the mentee or the mentor, some relationships may not gel.  This possibility is much less likely if you begin your mentoring relationships with a frank and honest discussion about what you want and need, and how you see the role of mentor and mentee.  Any mentoring relationship should have a no-faulty termination policy.
     
  • The "seasons" of a mentoring relationship:  All mentoring relationships undergo changes as the career needs of the mentee may gradually be met.  A successful mentee often becomes increasingly independent of the mentor.  This can lead to disappointment on the mentor's part as contact with the mentee may decline.  Mentors and mentees need to take into account the natural "seasons" of a normal mentoring relationship, and accept that contact with their partner may vary over time.

Adapted from The Mentoring Relationship, on Mentoring Resources, from Office of the Senior VP and Provost.  That document was in turn adapted from the following sources: