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Why Develop Expectations?

Statistics say that we spend about 80% of our time communicating during any given day. It is likely that we spend much of that time puzzled about the perceptions, views, and responses coming from our mentees or mentors (e.g., What is this meeting about? Why are we meeting now? What am I expected to do? What planet is my mentor/mentee from?). It is to minimize this puzzlement that we develop and use contracts that spell out the expectations we have for one another. To see sample contracts, click here. Problems in mentorship often come about because we misunderstand what is expected of us. By developing and agreeing upon expectations on behalf of both the mentor and the mentee, we can minimize our chance of running into potential problems.

Mentor/Mentee Expectations
▼ Clarify roles and responsibilities

Mentors should be realistic about what they can do for their mentees and should help the mentees understand what kinds of assistance they can expect. It's important to analyze what mentees need and help them develop a productive balance between seeking help and taking on more responsibility as they move toward independence.

▼ Set realistic goals and develop a work plan

Mentees are often unable to develop realistic goals and timelines and usually try to accomplish more that they can do in a given time frame. Mentors and mentees should work together to develop a work plan that includes short-term goals, long-term goals, and a time frame for reaching these goals, with milestones for key products. While the work plan should be addressed on an ongoing basis, each mentor and mentee should meet at least every 6 months to formally discuss the mentee's progress as well as any additional training and experiences needed to achieve the defined goals. Mentors and mentees should agree on a time to formally update progress. If modifications to the work plan are necessary, mentees should work with their mentors to develop and agree on a new work plan.

▼ Develop a schedule for regular meetings

Mentors and mentees need to have reasonable expectations for the frequency of meetings. It's important to establish acceptable alternative means of communication (e.g., e-mail and phone calls) and the boundaries of the communication. It is useful to discuss the kinds of issues that require a face-to-face meeting and the kinds that can be dealt with in other ways.

▼ Develop an agenda for each meeting

Some mentors prefer that mentees take responsibility for arranging and leading meetings, while others prefer to share the responsibility. Some prefer mentees to prepare agendas in advance to maximize the productivity of the time together. Mentors should determine which approach is best for them and communicate this to their mentees.

▼ Set rules about feedback

It is helpful to set up expectations about how often feedback will be given and the type of feedback mentees can expect. Mentors should ensure that mentees understand that the feedback is intended to help the mentees grow intellectually and professionally.

▼ Negotiate rules for reminders

Mentors should let mentees know how long it generally takes to review the mentees' work and should also let them know how best to follow up if the mentor is unable to reply within a specified time frame (e.g., through an e-mail or phone reminder a few days before the agreed date).

▼ Clarify expectations regarding papers

Mentees should know what the mentor expects first drafts to look like before they submit them for review. If mentors do not want mentees to hand in rough drafts, the mentor can suggest that they share their work with a trusted peer or writing group first.