Mentoring has become an integral part of any professional career. Whether an individual is mentored by someone with greater knowledge or they are mentoring someone coming up in their career, mentoring can build someone’s career from the ground up. Every mentor relationship is different, but there are factors that can lead to a more productive, satisfying relationship for both mentor and mentee.
A qualitative study conducted by Straus, Chatur, and Taylor (2009), involved telephone interviews with health and clinician investigators with MD degrees. The researchers asked questions related to the overall experience with mentorship, what the individual thought were good characteristics of a mentoring relationship, mentorship strategies, and barriers to mentorship. All participants believed good mentorship to be a vital part of having career success. It was unanimous that better relationships were formed when the mentee chose their mentor rather than being assigned a mentor. The researchers were able to pull together a list of characteristics of a good mentor including: seniority, approachable, accessible, altruistic, understanding, patient, and honest. Open communication and respect also came up as being important (Straus et al., 2009).
Another study lead by Straus, Johnson, Marquez, and Feldman (2013) included 54 faculty members from two universities. These participants stated that a successful mentorship relationship was one with mutual respect, clear expectations, and shared values. They also came to the conclusion that a personal connection between mentor and mentee was necessary for success. Not only did they come up with what created a successful relationship but also the factors that may lead to a failed relationship. Poor communication, lack of commitment, personality differences, and perceived or real competition may lead to a failed mentorship. A lack of the mentor’s experience may also lead to failure in the mentorship relationship (Straus et al., 2013).
Allen and Poteet (1999) also examined the characteristics of an ideal mentor. They investigated what the mentors and mentees can do to create an effective mentoring relationship. Listening and communication were at the top of the list for the 27 participants. They followed this with patience, knowledge of the industry, ability to understand others, and honesty. The researchers concluded that both mentors and mentees need to establish an open form of communication that includes feedback. This will help facilitate success within the relationship along with setting standards and expectations (Allen & Poteet, 1999).
I chose my mentor based on her willingness to answer my questions and take time out of her day to speak with me. She is a clinical nutrition manager who has many years of experience as a Registered Dietitian. She has also worked at a WIC clinic, as a clinical dietitian, and as the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President. With her many years of experience and leadership I knew she was the perfect fit. As Straus et al. (2009) stated, having a mentor who is approachable and accessible is important for success. My mentor is both of these things. Although she is constantly busy she will always put me in her calendar. She has also shown many signs of leadership. Not only can she teach me how to be a good leader but she can speak from her own experience of what do to and what not to do.
Being in a mentoring relationship has made me realize that I cannot do this on my own. I will never know everything there is to know even after many years of experience. I will have to continue to stay up to date on the science and new research. My mentor has been a great example of staying up to date on the literature and always having a desire to learn more. She has helped me develop into a curious professional, always educating myself more. She has also taught me that it is okay to change your point-of-view or belief in a certain matter. It is okay if I change my mind about topics or controversies after gaining more information.
Based on my experience as a mentee and the information in the research studies above, I will let others choose me as their mentor. I will not go out and seek individuals to mentor because it will likely lead to a failed relationship. My mentor was not seeking me out but rather I approached her only to be met by a pleasant surprise. Being available and respecting my future mentee will also be of upmost importance. My mentor has taught me that no detail is too small to share. Even if you think it is basic knowledge within the profession, the mentee may not know the information. So sharing everything possible will be appreciated by the mentee and will help them learn and grow.
Prior to my internship I did not know the importance of having a mentor. After my own personal experience with a mentor and reading research articles about the mentorship relationship, I hope to continue to have a mentor all throughout my career. Not only is it a great way to build a lasting relationship but also a lasting career of success. There will always be someone with more experience and knowledge than me so I will always have room to learn more. Mentoring is not something to disregard. It may lead to opportunities I did not think were possible.
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