I asked my fellow junior faculty at the faculty ladies lunch what they wish for in ‘effective’ faculty mentoring… here’s what they said (not in any particular order, and some related):
1. A mentor who is an advocate for you, and will stand up for you. I agree with this wholeheartedly (and Neurolover hit some of these points in comments to my previous post about this). By being an ‘advocate’ we don’t mean sitting behind the desk and stating the obvious ‘write grants’ and ‘submit papers’…., we mean help in dealing with all kinds of areas from how much service responsibility you allow to be assigned to you, … to helping you decide how to handle personnel issues that might arise in your lab… staying in the loop as to the funding situation in your area and keeping higher-ups (chair people perhaps) in the loop on your situation.
2. A mentor who knows what you must do for promotion and tenure, and is committed to
passing this knowledge along in detail and helping you get there. A shepherd to tenure- this should be obvious, the faculty ladies felt that it was helpful to have a mentor that had actually been (or is currently) on the P&T (promotion and tenure) committee- as they know what goes on in that super-secret star chamber.
3. A mentor who helps you obtain critical resources – like graduate students- for example. An example was given of a mentor who knows all the students (perhaps that person was in a grad student advisory position), and gives Jr. faculty insight specific to particular rotation students- their strengths, their weaknesses ets. This seems to me like an INCREDIBLY important thing- since we know that hiring great personnel to do the lab work is so key to junior faculty success.
4. A mentor who devotes TIME and ENERGY to their mentee. Mentoring junior faculty isn’t something that should be multitasked, it takes a real time commitment. Think of the hours that you have spent on search committees scouring the application packages of every one of 100+ applicants. Don’t the jr. faculty that you actually hire and spend $$s on deserve the same kind of careful attention… and more than that… .nurturance??
5. A mentor who actually does what they say they are going to do for you. Volunteer to help jr. faculty with go talk to the chair on your behalf about something- well, they better do it!! Volunteer to read jr. faculty mentee’s grants- well, don’t be surprised when we show up with one and ask you to read it. We won’t put off giving it to you until the last minute- but you should also be committed to giving it back to us in time so that we can incorporate your comments….
6. A mentor that is in tune with your science and can help in all aspects of this. Grant reading/editing, keeping wide-eyed junior faculty focused, telling you honest stuff that may not be comfortable to hear but is necessary. Whimple made a couple of excellent comments about this on his comment to my last post- junior faculty need to stay focused and sometimes it takes the help of a wiser person who as actually been there- to make this happen.
I know that many of you would probably like #6 to appear first- and … for those of you – you can put these in any order you like. I’m just brainstorming… I guess I also think that all of these qualities may not be in any one mentor. I know jr. faculty that have an excellent mentor in 1-5, but that person doesn’t know their area of science very well. Ok, fine- so a second mentor that knows the relevant science would be in order then.
Also- I’m sure that there are some that I am lacking- please feel free to contribute.