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Mentoring More Efficiently and Sustainably

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… February 12, 2024
An image of two people at a table working on a document together. Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash

Mentoring is essential for the next generation of scientists. It can also be exhausting when you are managing largen mentoring responsibilities on top of your everyday work.  The Harvard Business Review offers five strategies to help you manage mentorship efficiently and sustainably throughout your career. These are summarized below, but the full article can be read here: How to Mentor More People and Not Get Burned Out. 

1. Team-Based Mentorship:

When faced with numerous mentees, the burden of individual mentorship can become daunting. Divide your mentees into teams, consisting of three to four individuals with varying levels of experience. Empower the team by assigning a lead mentee with the most expertise. This approach promotes semi-autonomous operation, where teams can meet independently, fostering a supportive environment. Senior members learn valuable mentoring skills early in their careers, while less-experienced members benefit from a readily accessible "go-to" person.

2. Set Clear Expectations:

Establishing expectations early on is crucial for a successful mentor-mentee relationship. Create mentorship contracts outlining specific expectations, such as response times to emails, meeting frequencies, and discussion boundaries. This not only helps avoid onboarding uncommitted mentees but also sets a standard for when to end a mentorship relationship. Granting mentees a defined number of opportunities to demonstrate commitment allows for flexibility in your approach based on individual circumstances.

3. Leverage Technology:

For mentors receiving a high volume of requests, technology can be a valuable ally. Schedule fixed times for web-based signups, reducing the scheduling burden. Utilize group meetings, allowing multiple mentees to meet simultaneously, fostering mutual learning. Leverage technology further by recording videos answering frequently asked questions, deepening conversations and serving as an initial test of commitment. Sharing this content online expands your reach and showcases your mentorship efforts.

4. Brand Your Mentorship:

Institutions often overlook the time and energy mentors invest. Strategically brand your mentorship efforts to align with institutional priorities. Highlighting mentee successes through social media builds your local and national reputation. Passionate mentees become ambassadors, indirectly aiding recruitment efforts. Showcase mentee achievements within your organization to amplify your team's status. Establishing a reputation as a mentor capable of cultivating excellence is invaluable.

5. Hold Organizations Accountable:

True commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion requires organizational investment in grassroots mentorship initiatives. Institutions must recruit a diverse pool of mentors, avoid disproportionately assigning tasks to underrepresented managers, and establish objective metrics for evaluating mentorship. Financial resources should be allocated to support and develop effective mentors, recognizing the long-term impact of proper mentorship compared to superficial team-building activities.

The legacy of our careers is deeply rooted in the relationships we nurture and the careers we cultivate. To achieve meaningful end-of-career goals, we must transform mentorship into a practical and efficient tool for both mentors and mentees. Hopefully some of these strategies will make mentorship more sustainable throughout your career.

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