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Settling In: The Researcher's Guide to Your University

Topic 5: Mentorship

Researchers need mentors as they develop their research track record and explore different opportunities and strategies. This topic is of extreme importance to all researchers – no matter how senior. If you are an early career researcher, you need to cultivate at least one, and possibly more, mentors who can guide your research, your career, and your ongoing growth. As you move into more senior roles your mentors may be selected to offer insights into leadership and political strategies that can assist your research team or centre. As a researcher you will also mentor others: postgraduate students through to colleagues. This topic, while written from the perspective of the researcher as mentee, also offers considerable guidance on how to be an effective mentor. You will find it useful to consider the content from both angles: how can you benefit from a mentor and how can you contribute as a mentor?

Learning outcomes

After completing this topic you should be able to:

  •  Describe the role a mentor might play in your current career context
  •  Identify suitable mentors to support your identified needs
  •  Initiate and cultivate a successful mentoring relationship with a mentor
  •  Support other researchers as a mentor.

Topic content

Read the following notes.

5.1 What is mentorship?

5.2 Why is mentorship important for researchers?

5.3 Types of research mentors

5.4 The successful mentor

5.5 The successful mentee

5.6 Identifying suitable mentors

5.7 Initiating a mentoring relationship

5.8 Sustaining the relationship

Optional activity: Self-reflection

This is a good time to reflect on your own mentorship strategy. If you are an early career researcher or new to your university, you are strongly encouraged to identify a mentor and to commence the process of building your supportive network. Take the time to think about who you might seek out and plan your strategy. You may, in fact, identify several different types of mentors who could assist. This will be one of your most important outcomes from this module.

If you are a senior researcher, reflect on your current and previous mentoring relationships. How well do they reflect the principles outlined in this topic? Are there strategies that you might apply to new relationships? Are there new mentors you should be seeking out? Leadership mentors, perhaps? You may wish to consider using the previous Induction Interview Checklist for future discussions. Perhaps you might also see benefit in guiding other researchers into thinking more carefully about how they might nurture sustainable mentoring relationships.

Pursuing the topic further

If you wish to explore the features of successful mentorship in more detail, the following article is recommended. It is particularly interesting in its reporting of feedback from those engaged in successful research mentoring relationships.

Lee, A., Dennis, C. and Campbell, P. (2007) Nature's guide for mentors. Nature 447, June, 791–797.

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