Finding and maintaining mentor relationships

Tips and tricks for developing successful mentor/mentee relationships.

By Jennifer Lee, MS

At SPPAC this year, one of the most talked-about topics among my peers was mentorship. While mentorship has frequently been emphasized, how to obtain the mentorship you need can be a tricky process. In my time as student representative, I have been fortunate to have discussions with many mentors and mentees about their experiences. From these conversations, I have compiled a few tips and tricks. While every mentor relationship is different, asking yourself the following questions may guide you in finding what works best for you.


1. Why do I need a mentor and what do I hope to gain from this relationship? Is it specific (e.g., statistical consultation) or nonspecific (e.g., professional development)?
While this question may seem silly, it can be the most important step. Mentorship for the sake of saying so-and-so is your “mentor” will benefit neither the mentee nor mentor. Begin with the end in mind, and try to be as specific as possible about your goals for the relationship. If you don’t know what you aim to gain, your benefits will be just as unclear.


2. With whom should I try to connect for a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship?
Technology can provide the best resources for who is available. Our field is made up of a number of diverse individuals who can offer assistance. Remember that no mentor is “too much of a big wig” to be your mentor. Mentorship is always a two-way street. Regardless of who initiates the relationship, both parties will benefit in the end. Sharon Berry has led our mentorship program for years, and is an invaluable resource for mentors within pediatric psychology. Special interest Groups within SPP can also provide an interest area-specific pool of mentors.


3.  How can I make contact and establish a relationship?
If you have a mutual friend/colleague, have them introduce you. Approach and either provide something specific or ask something specific. It shows thoughtfulness in your approach to start with an explicit mentoring question or issue. It also demonstrates that you have done your homework on how your and your mentor’s interests overlap.


4. How do I maintain a mentor relationship?
Our mentor’s time is precious. Don’t waste it and gladly take whatever time is provided to you. They will appreciate your efficiency. Simultaneously, don’t overlook opportunities for emotional and personal growth the relationship provides. Be sure to follow up. Let your mentors know how their assistance benefitted you, providing return on their investment and feedback about what worked.

Finally, allow yourself to be challenged. We typically seek mentorship to change something about our current self or situation. Be open to opportunities that arise.