- In this post, winner of the AuthorAID mentor of the year - 2016 award, Dr Barbara Burmen from Kenya gives her top tips for mentors and mentees who use the AuthorAID platform to enhance their research career. Dr Burmen has been involved in more than six mentoring interactions since May 2016 and has also acted as a guest facilitator on the AuthorAID research writing course held in October/November 2016.
Having been both a research mentor and mentee, I have found mentoring relationships to be excellent examples of unsurpassed mutually beneficial professional relationships. Here are some of my top tips for mentors and mentees:
Initiating the mentoring relationship
A mentee needs to acknowledge a need to acquire knowledge and skills, and a mentor needs to be willing to ‘cascade down’ knowledge gained from their years of experience.
Mentees should identify a specific ‘area of need’ and several potential mentors who possess the right ‘skills mix’. This will guide the mentor’s response and allow mentees to benefit from diverse view-points and experiences.
Mentors should indicate their availability (or unavailability) as soon as possible to allow the mentee to seek out another mentor in good time.
During the relationship
Both parties should be open to learning from each other as they both come to the relationship with diverse experiences and views. Mentors should have an ability to conceptualize the information the mentee may have received from other mentors; after all it is possible different mentors will have different points of view.
It is possible that there will be ‘breakdowns’ in the mentoring relationship. An environment of open communication (which is sometimes difficult over electronic media) and ensuring that all discussions are made in good faith will prevent or reduce such incidences.
Both parties should agree on a realistic time frame in which to operate. In the event that a mentee does not meet some expectations but indicates a willingness to repair the relationship, a mentor should accord him or her another chance.
Ending the relationship
Both parties should indicate their wishes to end the mentoring relationship; one of the reasons mentoring relationships break down is that either or both parties suddenly ‘go silent’ after initially showing an interest in working with together.
After the relationship
Mentees should inform mentors of the outcome of ‘their work’ e.g. publication of an article, completion of a doctoral or masters’ thesis etc. and acknowledge AuthorAID mentors in these ‘works’. Mentors should also be allowed to document the mentoring relationship as an activity on their resumes. Going forward, both parties may either go their separate ways or seek out potential future collaborations.
Mentees can also consider whether they have acquired enough experience in the process to go on and become mentors themselves; many AuthorAID mentees started out as mentees and now pass on their knowledge and experience to others.
Click here to learn more about Barbara Burmen.