A mentor is a person who can support, advise, and guide the mentee.
A mentee is a person who is advised and counselled by the mentor.
Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship between mentor and mentee that brings students together, and that occurs through a series of conversations in which one person (mentor) draws on their experience and knowledge to advise and guide a less experienced person (mentee) in order to enhance their performance or support their development. Mentoring is about providing support, advice, and guidance to others.
In the case of peer mentoring, mentors have more experience which they use to inform and support new students. This mentoring relationship, however, is usually an equal one, hopefully with mutual benefits.
It is important to establish boundaries between mentors and mentees from the start of the mentoring relationship. Some examples on keeping mentoring boundaries:
- During Welcome Week both mentors and mentees should receive a short document about their roles (including what they can expect from each other and from their role, conversation starters, etc.), as well as a code of conduct to establish boundaries.
- Remind students that the relationship between the mentor and mentee is designed to lead to independence rather than dependence and should be a positive experience for all involved, so it is important to be mindful of your behaviour and to treat this relationship as a professional one, albeit informal and friendly.
- At the start of the academic year, if possible, all mentors should be invited for a session where the Mentoring Agreement (including things such as setting boundaries), criteria (DOs and DON’Ts), hypothetical situations, and useful contacts are discussed. Past mentors can be invited to such an event to talk about their own experiences with mentoring.
Code of Conduct
Every mentoring scheme should have a clear code of conduct to establish boundaries. Here are some suggestions of things to include:
- Mentoring is a confidential activity in which both participants have a duty of care towards each other. The mentor will only disclose information when explicitly agreed with the mentee or when they believe there is a serious danger to the mentee or others if the information is withheld.
- For any personal information to be fairly processed, mentors need the mentee’s permission. Any meeting notes should be treated confidentially and stored securely.
- Both participants will respect each other’s time and other responsibilities, ensuring they do not impose beyond what is reasonable. Both parties will also respect the position of third parties, e.g., Student and Staff Co-ordinators.
- It is not the mentor's role to provide essay support to their mentees. Mentors could discuss strategies for learning and building academic skills, or simply signpost students to the academic staff. However, mentors are not expected to provide detailed subject specific advice. For example, they should not be expected to: give detailed comments on drafts of written work, provide advice on departmental policies, provide detailed advice on academic issues such as referencing practice, or act on behalf of the mentee, for example by raising an issue of concern to the mentee with someone else.
- Mentors should not act/be treated as professional counsellors. Mentors are not taking the role of a personal tutor, senior tutor, or qualified counsellor. Mentors are there to offer friendly advice and guidance within areas of their expertise, based on their experience, and they can signpost mentees to the Student Support Services. If any concerns arise affecting the mentoring relationship the mentor may seek support from the academic coordinators of the scheme.
- Either participant may break off the relationship if they feel it is not working. If this is the case and the mentee would like to find another mentor, they should speak in the first instance to one of the mentor scheme’s co-ordinators. Both participants should do their best to be honest and sensitive with each other about how the relationship is working.
- The mentor will not impose their world views on the mentee, nor will they intrude into areas that the mentee wishes to keep off-limits.
The following must be completed and submitted by mentors and mentees who wish to meet regularly, either in person or online.
- Mentors agree to allocate regular and reasonable times in their schedule to meet with their mentees. This means they should meet with them [insert expected number of meetings] term at a minimum. Anything beyond that is to be decided by the mentors and their mentees.
- Mentors and Mentees will abide by the mentoring scheme Code of Conduct.
- Mentors and Mentees will respect each other’s boundaries, cultural customs, and religious beliefs.
- Mentors and Mentees will accept that the mentoring partnership is ultimately a professional relationship and so must be treated as such. Furthermore, a Mentor and Mentee are bound by confidentiality only up until a point as contained within the Code of Conduct.
- Mentors and Mentees will accept that under no circumstances should academic work be written by the mentor and failing to comply with this is in direct violation of University rules and regulations.
- Consideration needs to be given to the Data Protection Act if records or notes of meetings are kept. Specific provision is made under the Act for processing sensitive personal information, including areas such as mental health. For personal information to be considered fairly processed, the mentee’s permission has been given to assist the mentoring partnership, unless the mentee advises otherwise. There is the possibility that the notes could be used in discussion with a member of staff in order to protect the interests of the mentee or another person.
- If there are serious concerns about a mentee’s wellbeing and/or behaviour, the mentor will inform the academic coordinators of the mentoring scheme at the first opportunity.
- If there are concerns about the mentor/mentee relationship from either party, the student concerned can contact the coordinator(s) of the scheme [insert name of coordinator(s)].
· Share experiences, thoughts, and ideas
· Listen, sympathise, and ask questions
· Encourage action when something has been identified as important to mentee
· Advise and guide within area of expertise, not impose solutions
· Not know all the answers – but know when to redirect mentees to the right place within the University
· To look out for their mentee’s general wellbeing and to refer to the academic coordinators if they have any serious concerns about your welfare
· If building a long-term mentoring partnership, discuss and agree the Mentoring Agreement with the mentee
· Consider and share what you are looking for and seek the mentor’s advice
· Take an active role in considering how you would like the mentoring relationship to work
· Assess the progress of the relationship – be open and honest if the mentoring relationship is not working; do priorities and/or boundaries need to be reset?
· Listen to the mentor, be able to receive feedback and consider options from the mentor’s perspective
· Be considerate of your mentor’s time – your mentor may have other mentees
· Discuss and agree the Mentoring Agreement with your mentor
Potential Pitfalls & How to Prevent/Overcome Them
- Lack of Safeguarding
Breach of boundaries may occur when students are not prepared for their new relationship. To avoid this, students must understand the code of conduct and their roles within the mentoring relationship. Furthermore, students must be advised to only share their university email addresses with each other and do not meet in university halls of residence.
- Lack of Motivation and Commitment from Students
Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, disengagement and lack of motivation are very common phenomenon among students. For this reason, it is also possible that students may slowly lose touch with their mentors.
If a mentee is viewed as lacking commitment, e.g., always late or doesn’t show up, it is important for the mentor to try to discern the cause. It may be that the mentee-mentor match is not working well, or it may be that the mentee has discovered that his or her mentoring focus is no longer appealing. Students at Warwick tend to be highly motivated, so while there may be an occasional case in which there is a real lack of commitment, there is usually another issue underlying the problem and it is the mentor's job to identify it and help resolve it (although the mentor does not have sole responsibility for this). Mentees should be aware of their commitments that they made toward the mentorship scheme; however, their academic achievements are the top priority, which is important for the mentor to keep in mind when they reach out to the mentee or a mentor scheme co-ordinator to solve this issue.
- Lack of Support
Overseeing a mentoring scheme can be challenging. One possible way of easing one’s workload is to advertise Senior Mentor volunteering positions to students. Senior Mentors could act as a first point of contact if a mentoring relationship begins to break down.
- Unsuccessful Pairings and Goals
Successful mentoring relationships are generally characterized by reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values—yet these features cannot always be present when two, essentially, strangers get paired up. And that is completely fine. While it is clearly not favourable when the assigned mentors and mentees have conflicting personalities or views, it is always a possible outcome of mentoring. This can result in setting goals that are unrealistic for a mentee who doesn’t feel comfortable with their mentor and can cause stress and anxiety in both people involved.
Unsuccessful pairings usually discover their lack of compatibility during the first few meetings, giving them plenty of time to communicate this problem between each other and ask the mentoring scheme coordinator, senior mentor, or even the current mentor to help identify a more appropriate mentor for the mentee. While this may seem as both the obvious and logical solution, some people (whether mentors and mentees) might consider this as ‘failure’ and would rather forge ahead with the pairing instead of reporting the lack of success. In order to avoid this outcome, as a mentor, it is vital to recognise the signs of personality differences, poor communication between the two, or conflict of interest and report it to a supervisor who can treat the situation accordingly.
- Inability to Overcome Differences and Stereotypes
In mentoring schemes people are drawn in by similarities and often feel distanced by differences. When the participants first meet, they often have little information about each other besides their visible characteristics, which are a poor guide. They associate the other person with certain groups based on what they see and may draw false conclusions according to their misleading first impressions. However, as the mentor and mentee get to know and respect each other as individuals, superficial differences should give way to underlying commonalities such as shared values, backgrounds, and/or interests.
One possible way of dealing with differences is being direct about dealing with them. It would be best if the mentor and mentee decide together how they will treat their differences. Some mentoring pairs choose to explore diversity issues, while others prefer to disregard them. Either approach is valid. What seems to be most important is that both parties agree on the approach. It’s also essential that you are honest about not completely understanding each other’s backgrounds, experiences, or even vulnerabilities.
It is also important that the mentees are asked clearly about their preferences regarding mentors and their characteristics to ensure the mentees are comfortable with their pairs.
- Lack of Recognition
For students it is important that they feel that they are being part of something meaningful. It is often emphasised that the need that these mentorship schemes are not only for academic and career help, but it is also something that is worth celebrating and should be celebrated. If the peer mentoring scheme does not offer any form of recognition, then students may decide not to sign up to be mentors and mentees.
In order to avoid this, participants should be celebrated. Some ideas:
- Annual Christmas/summer party where the mentors and mentees have the chance to discuss their experiences as well as meet others who are also involved with the mentoring scheme
- Departmental certificate or reward
- Award ceremonies
- Peer Mentoring Scheme’s recognition on the HEAR transcript