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Making the Most of Mentorship: Advice for how to Maintain a Mentor Relationship

by Abby Lodico, PharmD, PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL; W. Justin Moore, PharmD, PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident, Northwestern Medicine, Chicago, IL

The benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship are limitless, and include networking opportunities, camaraderie, and professional development as discussed in an article published in the last issue of KeePosted, Mentors Matter: Finding the match to make the right move. As previously highlighted, good mentors are compatible with mentees and continually challenge mentees to strive for improvement. Strong mentorship primarily relies on a sound foundational relationship. To maintain a strong mentor-mentee relationship, we offer the following advice.

A solid relationship takes work
Similar to all personal relationships, such as those with family members, co-workers, or classmates, a mentor-mentee relationship requires intentional effort to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship. After carefully selecting a mentor with the best fit based on desired criteria, mentees should make every attempt to strengthen the bond and grow the relationship. If a mentor dedicates time and attention to a mentee, that respect should be appreciated and reciprocated. Try to find commonalities with mentors, as personal connections and common interests will allow each person to open up and gain trust within the relationship. With each interaction, attempt to balance the amount of time focused on personal, more casual topics, and professional, more focused discussions. People are more willing to invest time into activities and relationships which they enjoy. By creating more enjoyable interactions, mentors and mentees are more encouraged to keep in touch.

Discuss what works, and more importantly, what might not work
Mentor-mentee relationships often include generational gaps. Seasoned mentors and younger mentees may often fall into different age groups or cultural perspectives. Communication barriers could be a pitfall and cause a successful mentor relationship to sour early, as basic preferences are not discussed. By establishing what works and how people like to communicate, you can ensure that each party is comfortable and on the same page. Avoid key ideas and advice being lost in generational translation. For example, older generations such as baby boomers may prefer more traditional media such as telephone conversations, whereas younger practitioners may be more inclined to text or email (avoiding verbal communication at all costs). Hold off on emoji use until it is established that you are each familiar with this approach!

Be comfortable being uncomfortable
Mentees should lean into uncomfortable situations and try to feel secure in their boldness, as this promotes personal development and demonstrates strength of character. Mentees should make the first move, and go out of their way to connect with mentors. Reaching out to mentors and being proactive about setting up meeting times will help to ensure that mentor-mentee relationships endure. Again, it is important to figure out what works best for the relationship to flourish. If necessary, get creative! Plan outings or send articles to mentors that you think may be of interest. By thinking outside the box, mentors will see the extra effort and be more likely to dedicate additional time and support to mentees.

Create the space…...and time!
Meeting times between mentors and mentees should be established with standing meetings. Having this dedicated time increases the likelihood that mentors and mentees will connect and it will encourage a continued commitment for future meetings. Use calendar invites or reminders to be sure that all parties are aware of planned meetings and to minimize scheduling conflicts and frustration. After planning these times, make every effort to keep your commitments in order to maximize benefit from these interactions. Many times, mentor-mentee relationships suffer when mentees only reach out to mentors during opportune times of need. By establishing more consistent meeting patterns, a more genuine and developed relationship will grow.

Get involved
Mentees should be encouraged to seek career opportunities such as professional organization involvement, research, or even social media. More intimate professional organization settings like smaller group or committee work allow for a deeper level of understanding of project content and a deeper connection to other collaborators. Greater professional involvement may also include professional meeting attendance which is an ideal space to set up time to catch up with a mentor. Joining similar professional organizations may be a chance to work alongside a mentor and observe them in a different role, adding another layer to the relationship.

Twitter may also serve as a way to stay connected with mentors through online discussions and interactive dialogue. As social media continues to grow and impact nearly every professional sector, it is expected that this platform could serve as a virtual meeting space to better serve mentorship conversations.

Mentor-mentee relationships are not one size fits all. Find what works for you and your mentor, and make sure that you put in the effort to ensure that your relationship is sincere, mutually beneficial, and long-standing. For those who may be struggling to maintain a relationship, we have all been there. Hopefully this advice provides new perspective to get the relationship back on track for the future.



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