The mentoring process helps individuals reflect on and learn from their current real-life experiences to gain real-life realizations. Its focus is junior faculty needs, issues, challenges, hopes and dreams, development goals and plans. Mentoring is a two-way street with mentors and mentees each having responsibilities. Some of these relationships will be short-lived while others may last for years. A mentor clarifies challenges, offers oversight, insight and expertise, provides conceptual frameworks, feedback, progress monitoring, opportunities to enhance professional or personal growth, and supportive follow-up.
All junior faculty are required to meet with the divisional mentoring director annually for the purpose of coordinating the establishment of the original mentor/mentee connection, as well as to ascertain the mentee's ongoing satisfaction with that relationship. In addition, they are expected to meet with, for more extended periods, with their mutually selected, division-based 'career development mentor,' twice a year - some have benefitted greatly; others have felt that these resources were not needed. The resource is very important for those embarking on a more research-based academic career and is becoming increasingly beneficial for those pursuing a clinical educator academic career.
Each new appointee in the junior faculty series (as well as new recruits at any faculty level) need to first meet with the career development mentoring director. The intent of this meeting is to review the overarching goals of this program and to identify a compatible group of senior faculty from which the new appointee will select their desired mentor. The director will then coordinate and introduce the mentor/mentee indicating it is now their responsibility for maintaining the twice-per-year mentor/mentee appointments.
Each year, all junior faculty will still meet with the career development mentoring director to ensure on-going compatibility and compliance with the structure from the mentee's point of view.
This responsibility is primarily one of the mentee with a supportive responsibility by the assigned mentor. This step embodies the twice annual meetings focused on career development/career satisfaction. Specifically, it is not to review complicated issues or specifics related to clinical practice and/or research challenges.
A career development mentor is distinct from the mentee's clinical and research mentors. A career development mentor can provide:
- Knowledge of resources available to assist in improving teaching and/or research opportunities
- Knowledge of the criteria for evaluation of research and for achieving promotions
- Knowledge of institutional support available for appropriate career development
- Assistance navigating the University, David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases and bureaucracies addressing current (and changing) rules, policies and practices
- Sound advice on prioritizing organizational goals and offering guidance on process and strategic planning
- Introductions to colleagues on campus or in the discipline to help establish research collaborations
- Experienced counsel addressing potential pitfalls, shortcuts and alternate strategies
- Enlightenment on informal rules of the profession/division
The overall goal is to help junior faculty achieve their potential in life as academic gastroenterologists. The general goals are to offer a program where they have access to a process for:
- Addressing confidential career and life-choice questions
- Having regular 'check-in' meetings to see how they are faring in their path in what is an increasingly challenging academic environment
- Ensuring they are 'on track' with their research and academic aspirations
Mentors should be able to provide:
- Academic and/or research advise based on planned career trajectory
- Insights and shortcuts through institutional processes
- Recommendations on balancing multiple criteria for advancement (research, teaching, professional engagement and service)
- Access to a professional network within their field
Mentoring processes can break the isolation associated with many social and workplace roles, in which asking for help may be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence. They can also help maintain the mentee remained focused when support is not sufficiently available from colleagues, leaders or managers.
Mentoring can do much to alleviate the following common experiences:
- Recurring, unsolved problems
- High levels of unhealthy stress
- Group, individual or team dysfunction and under-performance
- Unproductive busyness, unfocused anxiety, dissatisfaction with progress
- Being overburdened with (often conflicting) urgent priorities
- Lack of a healthy work/life balance
- A sense of wasted potential or of being undervalued
- Fear of failure and tendencies to be immobilized by perfectionism
- Difficulty in aligning values, thoughts and feelings