The Life Course of Mentorship:
Learning Pearls for Mentors and Mentees

  • Recognition of transitions is key as mentoring relationships develop; expectations and career circumstances evolve and transitions occur over time.
  • Mentoring need not necessarily end when either a mentor or mentee leaves the institution.
  • It is important to recognize a mentee’s need and readiness for independence.
Explicit Expectations Facilitate Transitions
  • Clarify and discuss expectations at each stage, including the length of the relationship and and expected transitions.
  • It is important that any issue be discussable, including when to make a transition or terminate the relationship.
  • Seek outside consultation if roles and expectations are unclear or issues are unresolved.
  • Consultation can be especially helpful for a mentee if his mentor is his superior/supervisor.
  • Consultation should be sought from someone who has the respect and trust of both the mentor and mentee.
  • Plan in advance for transitions, e.g., when a mentor or mentee leaves the institution or assumes a new role or project.
  • Leaders (chairs, chiefs, directors) should be involved in communication during mentoring transitions e.g., alerting colleagues, identifying new mentors/mentees, and making introductions.
  • Consider a mentor transition as being similar to a transition in a physician‐patient relationship in which the physician bears some responsibility for helping her patient find a new provider when the relationship ends.
Distance Mentoring
  • Electronic media have expanded the potential for developing long‐distance mentoring relationships.
  • One caveat is that electronic communication also creates hurdles in many areas of mentoring, including mentoring assumptions, authorship, and accountability.
  • Authorship issues are pervasive in mentoring.
  • It is important to understand veiled (e.g., funding of lab) roles in authorship decisions.
  • Senior faculty who are “true” mentors are altruistic about authorship, and at some point give up authorship positions on their mentees’ publications.
  • Authorship conflicts are often symptomatic of, and can be exacerbated by, mentoring transitions.
  • It is necessary to become familiar with the authorship guidelines for your institution.
Issues unique to the nature of mentoring in science/healthcare
  • Multi‐disciplinary and collaborative projects with cross‐disciplinary mentors require additional communication of expectations and roles, especially as mentoring relationships and authorship positions change.
  • Given the unpredictable path of scientific discovery, it is difficult to identify future mentors far in advance.