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Mentoring Relationships

Belle Alderman

Success Factors

Mentoring features
  McCormack (1996)

Type of Relationship Formal/facilitated/structured or Informal
Number in relationships Usually one-to-one
Age Mentor usually older
Experience Mentor usually more experienced
Purpose Personal, career, educational development

Mentor's roles
  Fisher (1994: 5)

  • Adviser
  • Assessor
  • Bridge
  • Communicator
  • Confidant
  • Co-ordinator
  • Counsellor
  • Facilitator
  • Friend
  • Guide
  • Link
  • Opener of doors
  • Partner
  • Role model

Qualities expected of a mentor

  • Intelligence & integrity
  • Professional knowledge & skills
  • Professional attitude
  • High personal standards
  • Enthusiasm
  • Willingness to share knowledge

Is mentoring for me?

In your early career mentoring can ...

  • build your confidence
  • inspire and generate enthusiasm
  • aid in understanding inexplicable & nuances
  • enhance experiential learning
  • offer effective models
  • help you to accept 'criticism'
  • assist in career planning

Preparing to be a mentee

  • Assess your skills
  • Determine skills needed for professional practice
  • Identify areas where skills development is required

What kind of skills do you have?

  • Technical skills - what you can do
  • Professional skills - what you know
  • Personal skills - how well you get things done

Personal SWOT analysis

  • Strengths~your qualifications & skills
  • Weaknesses~your gaps relevant to career
  • Opportunities~your aspirations
  • Threats~your barriers to success

Then there's the organisational SWOT ...

Factors in choosing a mentor

  • Same or different experience, work level, style, age, gender, cultural background?
  • Range of expertise and personal experience?
  • Knowledge and professional networks?

Mentors benefit too!

  • Intrinsic satisfaction through participating in another's development
  • Enhanced ability to impart skills & knowledge
  • Enhanced skills in observing, listening, questioning
  • Opportunity to discuss issues and problems, and understand other's perspective
  • Enhanced analytical & strategic thinking skills
  • Greater understanding of one's personal and professional values
  • Review and reappraise knowledge and skills
  • Collaboration in production of skilled entry-level professionals
  • Opportunities to assess for future career

What's required?

You must

  • be committed
  • be prepared to realistically assess yourself
  • jointly develop a 'plan'
  • devote time
  • accept constructive criticism
  • turn criticism into positive growth

Facilitated mentoring

Typically involves

  • Design that meets organisation's needs
  • Criteria & process for selecting mentees
  • Strategies & tools for determining developmental needs of mentees
  • Orientation for both mentors and mentees
  • Strategies for matching mentors & mentees
  • Negotiated agreement between mentor & mentee
  • Co-ordinator responsible for program and supporting relationships
  • Formative evaluation to adjust program
  • Summative evaluation to determine outcomes for organisation, mentor & mentee
Murray (1991: xv)

Critical success factors (based on Partners in Learning mentoring program)


  • listen, encourage, prod
  • share personally & professionally
  • offer opportunities
  • monitor & adjust mentee's program


  • set goals
  • commit time & effort
  • continually reflect
  • continually self-assess & adjust goals
  • stretch the 'comfort zone'

Successful mentoring

Requires you to

  • understand the mentoring process
  • decide what you want from mentoring
  • agree on the roles/responsibilities of both mentor and mentee
  • engage with an appropriate mentor


Examples of Definitions of Mentoring

Definitions differ depending on the profession involved and workplace practices where it is implemented. For example, the nursing, business, academic, and school environments may emphasise different aspects. The various definitions below generally include the type of relationship, the number in the relationship, and functions of the mentoring relationship.

'Mentoring involves a relationship in which the mentor, usually a more experienced individual, works closely with the protege for the purposes of teaching, guiding, supporting and facilitating the professional growth and development of a colleague.' (Taylor 1992: 48)

'... a complex, interactive process occurring between individuals of differing levels of experience and expertise which incorporates interpersonal and career development.' (Wunsch 1993: 353)

'... a close relationship between two people where the mentor guides and assists the mentee to a level of personal and professional excellence not attained previously.' (Matters, 1994: 4)

... an intensive, one-to-one form of teaching in which the wise and experienced mentor inducts the aspiring protege into a particular, usually professional, way of life.' (Parkay 1988: 196)

'Facilitated mentoring is a structure and series of processes designed to create effective mentoring relationships, guide the desired behavior change of those involved, and evaluate the results for the proteges, the mentors, and the organisation with the primary purpose of systematically developing the skills and leadership abilities of the less-experience members of an organisation.' (Murray 1991: 5)

Suggested checklist for Negotiating Mentoring Agreements

(based on Murray 1991: 158-59)

  • Mentor and mentee should discuss each of the questions below and record a joint answer.
  • What roles will mentors be expected to take?
  • How will we deal with issues of confidentiality?
  • Who will be involved in discussing/negotiating the agreement?
  • What is the suggested duration of the relationship?
  • How can the agreement be concluded, if different to the specified time?
  • What will be the frequency of our meetings and their length?


Fisher, Biddy (1994) Mentoring London: Library Association

Kram, Kathy E (1988) Mentoring at Work Lanham, MD: University Press of America

McCormack, Coralie (1996) Mentoring in Higher Education Canberra: Centre for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship, University of Canberra

Matters, P N (1994) Mentoring Partnerships: Key to Leadership Success for Principals and Managers ERIC Document ED366113

Murray, Margo (1991) Beyond the Myths & Magic of Mentoring San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Parkay, F W (1988) 'Reflections of a Protégé' Theory into Practice, vol 27 (3): 194-200

Taylor, L J (1992) 'A Survey Of Mentor Relationships In Academe' Journal of Professional Nursing, vol 8 (1): 48-55

Wunsch, A A (1993) 'Mentoring Probationary Women Academics: A Pilot Programme for Career Development Studies in Higher Education, vol 18 (3): 349-362


Last modified: 2001-03-24

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