Demystifying Mentoring

So, you think you know mentoring? Perhaps, early in your career, a more experienced colleague took you under their wing and helped you navigate the process of learning all you didn’t learn in school. Conversely, perhaps you were assigned a mentor who said they were too busy or could not be bothered, leaving you to sink or swim on your own, and leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth about mentoring.

The truth is, mentoring relationships often land in the middle ground, where a mentor can meet some of the needs and provide some important assistance to a junior colleague or peer. According to Kathy Kram in the article, “Phases of the Mentor Relationship,”* there are nine functions of mentoring sought by people navigating the early stages of a career.

Career Functions Psychosocial Functions
  • Sponsorship
  • Role modeling
  • Exposure and Visibility
  • Acceptance and confirmation
  • Coaching
  • Counseling
  • Protection
  • Friendship
  • Challenging assignments



We know your time is valuable, but the difference you can make in providing one or more of these functions to a new faculty member can mean the world to them, and give you an opportunity to contribute to your field in another way by being the mentor that you once had - or the one you wish you had. Please check with your department on the requirements and expectations specific to your unit/program.

*Kram, K. E. (1983). Phases of the Mentor Relationship. Academy of Management Journal, 26(4), 608–625.

How to Become a Good Mentor

Step 1: Review Kram’s Nine (9) Functions of Mentoring and the following section titled Example Duties/Responsibilities of Mentors (shown below).

Step 2. Complete the LinkedIn Learning online module Being a Good Mentor to become well-versed in mentoring techniques and the mentor/mentee relationship. (The module is 60 minutes in length.) Once done, you will receive a badge acknowledging your completion. Now you’re ready to mentor!

Step 3. Schedule a preliminary session (by phone, in-person, virtual) with your mentee(s) to learn of his/her/their needs as well as their goals for the mentoring relationship. At this session, discuss the importance of confidentiality and agree upon a meeting schedule. Next, determine the appropriate mentoring tools/strategies (see below) to guide productive and meaningful sessions.

Examples of the Duties/Responsibilities of Mentors

The duties/responsibilities of mentors can vary. Below are examples of the types of responsibilities mentors can assume. Faculty should not feel obligated to honor every item listed, nor is the list exhaustive; it’s important to consider your role within the unit/mentoring program and define responsibilities that align with your functionality (see above). Once determined, these responsibilities should be clearly articulated to mentees to orient expectations.

  • Participates in mentorship activities, such as meeting the mentee(s) or group at initial orientation.
  • Reaches out to mentees to ensure the development and maintenance of relationships.
  • Makes time for, initiates, and holds meetings with the mentee(s), as needed. Meetings may be weekly in the beginning, then decreased as needed.
  • Mentors will keep track of the time spent with mentees.
  • Provides opportunities for discussion and reflection on careers and the mentor/mentee relationship.
  • Reviews specific short- and long-term goals with the mentee and monitors progress toward these goals.
  • Provides guidance, information, and feedback relative to the topics provided below (see the section titled Resources & Support)
  • Maintains strict confidentiality.
  • Helps mentee(s) to set priorities, manage time, and make wise choices among options and opportunities.
  • Offers guidance on boundary setting (when and how to say “no”).
  • Provides counsel and strategies for working within a team framework.
  • Works with the mentorship team, meeting with them annually or as needed.
  • Establishes the agendas for the mentorship collaborative team meetings together with the mentee(s).
  • Reviews progress and helps facilitate the mentee's success in meeting the established and agreed upon goals.
  • Understands the needs of the mentee and is respectful of those needs by providing support that addresses the mentee’s needs

Source: College of Nursing Mentoring Program. 2012.The University of Illinois at Chicago, IL.Retrieved from:

Resources and Support

Below is a collection of resources, including videos, articles, books, and guides, to assist you with different aspects of the mentor role and to support your success with the mentoring relationship and/or program.

Setting Expectations

Tips to Become an Effective Mentor

Prospective Topics for Mentoring Sessions

Below is a baseline of topics for mentoring administrative and academic faculty; It clarifies topics that are the responsibility of the unit and topics that are the responsibility of mentors:

  • Academic faculty:
    • Unit/Supervisor Responsibility: local orientation and onboarding, clarification about tenure/promotion processes and standards, bylaws (e.g., NSHE Code, university, college, unit), disciplinary expectations, scholarship and research, and class management (in-person and online courses, technology).
    • Mentor Responsibility:  strengthening teaching skills, diverse student learning, student conduct, building scholarship and research capabilities, service, navigating the university, orientation to unit culture and processes, disciplinary expectations, career development, faculty advocacy (for specific areas only), and providing a safe space to share concerns, fears, and challenges.
  • Administrative faculty:
    • Unit/Supervisor Responsibility: local orientation and onboarding, NSHE code and university bylaws, job expectations, and unit history, mission, and goals.
    • Mentor Responsibility: navigating the university, orientation to unit culture and processes, career development, faculty advocacy (for specific areas only), and providing a safe space to share concerns, fears, and challenges


According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, an individual development plan or IDP “is a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help employees reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance.” This tool can assist mentor and mentees plan and track mentee goals during their sessions.

Online Support

Ending the Mentoring Relationship and Closing Activities

Evaluation of Mentoring Relationship

Additional Readings