Why Mentoring Matters
Mentoring Best Practices
Mentoring Tools

The ultimate success of a program for developing clinical-translational researchers depends on the presence of an environment that supports and fosters the growth of individuals throughout the development process. In addition to the formalized education programs currently offered through the CCTS REACH Program, we have also developed mentoring tools and resources designed to develop the skills of mentors, foster support for career development of mentees, and ultimately improve clinical and translational science research productivity among the UIC community.

It is clear that building a strong network of mentors who provide both professional and personal guidance is a key component of any successful research career, but developing these effective mentoring relationships often presents challenges. Although there is no ideal mentoring model that works for everyone, here you will find a variety of resources, tools, and best practices literature designed to help overcome some of these obstacles.

Why Mentoring Matters

For Mentees

In today's complex and often highly competitive world of academic medicine, having a mentor or a team of mentors can mean the difference between success and failure. A recent systematic review of mentoring in academic medicine suggests that mentorship can have an important influence on personal development, career guidance, career choice and research productivity, including publication and grant success.

Mentoring can help to ensure success in a wide variety of situations, including addressing questions such as:

  • How to ask the right research question
  • How to best design a new experiment
  • How to develop a clinical or educational program
  • How to find needed resources
  • By serving in the role of guide, coach, or ally, mentors can answer a mentee's questions as they arise, ensuring steady progress and completion of project milestones.
  • By serving in the role of advocate, a mentor can help a mentee navigate the terrain of academia in order to move forward professionally.
  • By providing knowledgeable and strategic advice, a mentor can serve to empower a junior faculty member, postdoc, or fellow to pursue an innovative opportunity. The interest and support of a mentor often provide the mentee with both the confidence and practical knowledge to undertake a new and exciting challenge. 

For Mentors

In addition to providing support to junior faculty members, mentorship includes many benefits to Mentors as well. For example:

  • Mentoring can enhance a mentor’s own personal and professional knowledge while teaching and learning from the mentee.
  • By providing guidance, support, advice, strategic feedback, and other insights to a mentee, the mentor can learn and enhance leadership skills.
  • Mentees often bring a fresh perspective to a difficult problem, and serving as a mentor can provide a renewed sense of purpose in meeting the challenges of leading an educational endeavor, clinical initiative or research program.
  • While working with a mentee, the mentor also has the opportunity to gain a new talented colleague –one with whom the mentor may collaborate for years to come. Importantly, a mentor is provided with a sense of satisfaction in contributing to a legacy of developing the next generation of creative faculty.

This section adapted with permission from the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at Oregon Health & Science University and the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh.

Mentoring Best Practices

Successful mentoring relationships depend on the following best practices:

  1. Clear and open communication of perspectives and interests. Increasing your awareness of others, active listening, and being able to share your own experiences are key
    Learn more about Best Practices for Mentoring Communication
  2. High standards of ethics and professionalism. Mentors have the responsibility of teaching and role modeling the appropriate ethical behavior of academic professionals
    Learn more about Best Practices for Ethics in Mentoring
  3. Awareness of and ability to openly discuss differences
    Learn more about Best Practices for Mentoring across Differences
  4. Commitment to addressing challenges as they arise
    Learn more about Best Practices for Managing Mentoring Challenge

This section adapted with permission from the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at Oregon Health & Science University and the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh.

Mentoring Tools

While the benefits to mentors and mentees are far-reaching, there are also significant challenges that can stand in the way of providing and receiving high quality mentorship. The resources available below are designed to help students, postdocs, faculty, and academic professionals become a more effective mentors or mentees and develop the next generation of independent researchers.

UIC Mentoring Resource Guide

UIC Human Resources' Mentoring Resource Guide document at the MyCareer website contains many useful ideas to improve mentoring relationships. The following sections may be most useful:

  • What Role does a Mentor Play?
  • How can I improve Mentor Effectiveness?
  • How can I improve Mentee Effectiveness?
  • What are some Common Protégé Profiles?

The William T. Grant Foundation Guide

The William T. Grant Foundation has a new resource for mentors jointly developed by the Forum for Youth Investment and the Foundation. Pay It Forward: Guidance for Mentoring Junior Scholars presents best practices gleaned from experiences with current and former William T. Grant Foundation Scholars and their mentees, as well as a review of selected literature.

Career Development for Academic Medicine: A Nine Step Strategy

The Academic Development Plan (ADP) is a nine-step strategy to plan for advancement in academic health careers process for more effective mentoring which was developed by Linda Pololi, senior scientist and resident scholar at Brandeis University Women's Studies Research Center in Massachusetts. Used with permission from author.

Making the Most of Mentors: A Guide for Mentees

The checklist available in this article by Judy T. Zerzan et al. is a useful guide for mentees to "manage up" to create successful mentoring relationships.

Mentoring Checklist and Mentoring Plan

The Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) at the University of California, San Francisco's Mentor Development Program has developed a Mentoring Checklist of activities to guide the mentor and mentee towards a mutual agreement. They have also developed an Individual Mentoring Development Plan. Read more about the UCSF Mentoring Program. Used with permission of CTSI at UCSF.

Initial Mentoring Agreement and Detailed Mentoring Agreement

The Clinical and Translational Science Education Program of The Mayo Clinic CTSA has developed an Initial Agreement and a Detailed Agreement tool which outline Expectations for the CTSA Scholar Mentoring Relationship. Read more about the Mentoring Program at Mayo.

Developmental Network Map

This toolprovides step-by-step instructions for developing a map of critical relationships. Creating this map is useful in meetings with mentors as it can help determine who is missing from an individual’s support network.

Mentor Evaluation Form

This form may be useful in initially discussing expectations with your mentor/mentee, as well as when evaluating the quality of the mentor/mentee relationship.

Mentoring Articles (Updated List Coming Soon!)

This listing of articles provides background information, empirical data, and concrete advice about topics such as traditional mentoring, peer mentoring, mentoring networks, issues of gender and racial equity in mentoring, and what department chairs can do to better support career development.