Chapter 2: What is a mentor?

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Section 4. The mentor - new professional relationship changes over time

The mentor-new professional relationship is not static over time. It changes. Consider these 4 broad stages:

  • Stage 1: Getting to know you
  • Stage 2: Negotiating roles
  • Stage 3: Meeting needs
  • Stage 4: Redefining the relationship
Stage 1:   Getting to know you

There will be some amount of trust building and sounding out between the mentor and the new professional. This works both ways. You will want to get to know the new professional and gain a feel for how she likes to receive information and support, the best times and ways to contact her, etc. At the same time she will want to get that information from you.

It is likely that you will start to exchange some personnel information as well. Did you have the same instructor for Braille? Where did you do your O&M internship?   Are you married with any children, etc?

This initial stage in the relationship helps the mentor and new professional start to develop trust and respect. It also helps establish the foundation for stages 2 and 3.

Stage 2:   Negotiating roles

It is important that you and the new professional establish roles and come to a mutual understanding of the relationship. Does the new professional expect you to lend them materials? Do you feel comfortable doing that? How often will the two of you have contact? What will happen when you observe the protégé? Does the protégé even want you to observe? You can use the "Activities Checklist for Mentor/Protégé Teams" as a starting place for negotiating roles. You may find yourself returning to this stage as your relationship with the protégé develops and you want to re-negotiate roles.

There is one role distinction is very important to make up front. Your role as a mentor is not to evaluate or assess the new professional. If your administration tries to put you in an evaluative role with the new professional, you should give up one or the other of the roles.

Stage 3:   Meeting needs

This is the main work of the relationship: how you support and challenge the new professional while helping her develop a new professional vision and identity.

Stage 4:   Redefining the relationship

Over time, your relationship with your protégé will change. You might become friends or colleagues more than mentor-protégé. You might have limited contact after the protégé gains more expertise and comfort in her new role. This change is to be expected and is not a bad thing. In fact, you should plan for the day when your protégé no longer needs you as an active mentor.

Activity D