Importance of Mentoring
As a student beginning their professional career, there are many unknowns. Young and inexperienced, students have ideas and dreams of where they want to end up but are not always sure how to get there. This is where mentoring can play a large role in helping young people develop more concrete goals and give them a better understanding of the field they are interested in pursuing. Mentors can act as a career consultant, a disciplinary guide, or can give advice about the kinds of skills and knowledge one needs to succeed (1). Often, mentors are in positions that students would like to see themselves in someday. Mentors can provide resources and support to these students and help them understand the necessary steps they would need to take. Mentors can come in the form of faculty, industry professionals, advanced graduate students, or even peers. When finding and establishing a professional mentoring relationship, it is important to have a vision of what kind of mentorship is needed and to communicate those needs clearly to potential mentors. Additionally, an understanding of how frequently and through what medium communication will take place should be established. Finally, goals and work plans should be developed, and the mentor should be regularly updated on the student’s progress. It is also a good idea to have a conversation on how feedback will be given to the student so that expectations are met on both ends.
Feedback is a necessary component of progress in a workplace setting but can be difficult to properly administer. This is especially true when working with people who come from different backgrounds (2). In some cultures, it is rude to give feedback that is too direct or harsh. If given to a person from a more indirect culture, it can cause the recipient to feel unappreciated or unvalued and they may not absorb any of the feedback even if it was constructive and helpful. On the other hand, giving softer feedback such as “suggestions” to people from direct cultures may confuse them and cause them to not take the feedback very seriously. Giving feedback is walking a thin line between wanting someone to change their behavior/work ethic and wanting them to respond well and actually take in the feedback. A good strategy for giving feedback is to acknowledge the positives first and even before the conversation takes place i.e. let a colleague know when they do something well or that you appreciate. After having acknowledged the value they bring to the workplace, then they will likely feel more receptive to constructive feedback. It is important to focus on behavior change, to avoid shaming and accusing, to use “I” statements, to be generous and understanding, and to speak openly about your intents and their interests and how those intersect (3).
Successful Leadership Traits
Giving good feedback is a skill developed by good leaders. While there are typical qualities that are associated with good leaders, that they are charismatic, confident, well-spoken, etc., much of what goes into a good leader needs to be actively developed. A collaborative leader is an example of a type of leader that is self-aware and can act in the interests of the team by understanding the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on the team, including themselves (4). Being a strong leader is more than a strong personality; it often takes someone who understands the connections of people around them and can utilize that understanding to lead the team to success.
1. University of Washington (2019). Mentoring Guides for Students [Web Page]. Retrieved from http://grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/
2. Meyer, E. (2015). Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/giving-negative-feedback-across-cultures-4259
3. Petersen, D. (2013). Carole Robin: Feedback is a Gift [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/carole-robin-feedback-gift
4. Vora, T. (2014). Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3 [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://qaspire.com/2014/05/11/indispensable-traits-of-a-collaborative-leader-part-3/ -leader-part-3/