Resident & Fellows Committee: Mentoring 101: A Brief Guide to Navigating the Mentorship Process

By: Ruchika Talwar, MD; Ankur Shah, MD, MBA; Justin Ziemba, MD, MSEd | Posted on: 03 Sep 2021

The Importance of Mentorship in Training (and Practice) ”Seeking a Mentor” and “How to Be a Good Mentee”

Mentor–mentee relationships forge our earliest professional identities and nurture our growth as physicians. There is substantial evidence that workplace mentorship increases job performance, promotion and motivation. However, more than half of professionals recently surveyed across various industries report not having a current mentor; this is most pronounced in health care, with only 43% of those surveyed having ever had a mentor. This raises the question of why mentorship remains underutilized in medicine despite the clear career benefits.

At least part of this can be explained by a lack of emphasis, training and programmatic support for mentorship, particularly for the practicing urologist. Therefore, we hope to provide this concise guide on meaningful mentorship for both mentors and mentees.

The Critical Steps to Being a Mentor “Seeking a Mentor” and “How to Be a Good Mentee”

Two major relationship domains are useful to consider within the larger mentorship context. The first is coaching, which is typically short-term and aimed at task specific feedback to overcome a professional obstacle. The second is sponsorship, which is time-limited and designed to elevate a mentee’s visibility through networking and advocacy.

The key to the success of any mentor is building a healthy relationship with the mentee. To cultivate this, the mentor has to be available professionally, psychologically and logistically. The mentor and mentee need to have explicit and realistic shared goals for the relationship. Further, the mentor needs to create an environment of psychological safety and trust, not only inclusive of confidentiality, but also that the advice provided is in their best interest (which may not always align with the mentor’s interests). Finally, the mentor should always be authentic and empathetic.

Seeking a Mentor

As a trainee, finding an appropriate mentor for an individual’s specific goals is crucial to ensuring the success of the relationship. Mentors are thought of as sole individuals who serve multiple roles in helping to advance a career, but mentorship is often a team model. Mentors may serve as role models after whom you would like to mirror your career, or they may have expertise in a particular subject that interests you. Sometimes mentors are influential individuals who may be able to use their network to benefit you.

It is important to remember that your mentor’s title or leadership position is not the only thing that matters. Their personal attributes and investment in you as an individual are of far more significance in the long run. If possible, it may be helpful to talk to others who have worked with your proposed mentor.

How to Be a Good Mentee

Mentorship is a vital component to professional success; however, it is not a one-way street. The mentee plays a significant role in maintaining the relationship. Overall, the qualities of a good mentee involve respect, responsibility, reliability, resiliency and communication. Mentees should respect a mentor’s time and take responsibility for regular communication, taking initiative and being reliable enough to complete tasks on time. Finally, mentees should be open to receiving honest feedback and demonstrate actionable change on such feedback.

  1. Eby LT, Allen TD, Evans SC et al: Does mentoring matter? A multidisciplinary meta-analysis comparing mentored and non-mentored individuals. J Vocat Behav 2008; 72: 254.
  2. Kammeyer-Mueller JD and Judge TA: A quantitative review of mentoring research: test of a model. J Vocat Behav 2008; 72: 269.
  3. Catalyst: Coaches, Mentors, and Sponsors: Understanding the Differences. Catalyst 2014. Available at https://www.catalyst.org/research/infographic-coaches-mentors-and-sponsors-understanding-the-differences/.
  4. Chopra V, Woods MD and Saint S: The four golden rules of effective menteeship. BMJ 2016; 354: i4147.
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