Mentorship Talk, Tips, and Tools

Mentoring is the most important tool in becoming the professional we want to be.

The OPA launched its Peer Mentoring Program earlier this year at the Annual Meeting. Many have taken advantage of it, and are reaping the benefits of connecting with someone who can guide them in a special area of interest. Yet, there is room for many more to enjoy this service.

What is a mentor?

Mentors are trusted teachers, coaches, guides, supporters, promoters, protectors, nurturers. A mentor is someone who has been there, and who is gratified by the success of another.

What is mentorship?

A mentoring relationship is a close, individualized one. It involves two people with common interests, differing experience and seniority, working together, with the common goal being to further the interests of the more junior person.

What are the benefits to the mentee?

One can gain from the advice, experience and expertise of the mentor. A mentor can help to develop a supportive work environment, enhance communication, provide a sense of belonging, assist to increase visibility, and be an advocate and positive role model.

What are the benefits to the mentor?

The mentor can gain recognition from this relationship, and earn the respect of their peers. There is an inherent sense of personal satisfaction, and the gratification of enhancing someone else’s development. Helping others learn keeps you at the leading edge of your field. This is an ideal opportunity to positively impact on the future, and nurture future leaders.

When is mentoring useful?

Mentoring is most useful at the beginning of a career, at a turning point of a professional life, or for those who are taking on new special roles or expectations.

How does one mentor?

There are no real rules. Different individuals have different needs, at different times. There is no one perfect mentor. A mentor can be a peer or a boss. A mentor can be within or outside medicine. Mentorship is not monogamous – one can have more than one mentor at a time.

How much time does mentoring take?

This need not be a time-intensive process. Mentors and mentees are required to make a commitment of at least one year. It is hoped that there is regular contact, at least 3 times during the year, but ideally once a month via email, phone or in person.

What is effective mentoring?

Mentoring is most effective when the mentor is professionally secure, proficient in their work, and open to sharing their expertise and experience. The mentor demonstrates and models an integrated approach to personal and professional life. The mentor fosters independence, builds networks, is available, creates a supportive learning environment, and provides regular meetings and feedback. The best mentors are committed to the mentoring relationship.

What is ineffective mentoring?

Mentoring can not be effective when the mentors use the mentee to further their own career. Similarly, the mentor should not be threatened by the mentee’s success, or work at fostering dependence. There can be no boundary violations. Attempts to create a "Mini-Me" are inappropriate and unproductive.

How can I find a mentor?

Often, this is pure luck! Of course, it helps to plan, assess, and identify your needs. Determine what kind of mentor will help you thrive. Look around you for possible mentors; use existing networks. Review names of colleagues, and check out their interests, availability, expectations, publications, and reputation. Look for those who seem happy doing what you would like to do. Reach out to them. Luckily for you, the OPA has a Peer Mentoring Program that helps to match mentors and mentees.

How can I be a mentor?

Review what kind of mentoring you received, and how this helped further your career. Help foster networks for junior colleagues, and introduce them to others who may be helpful to them. Promote your mentees; let them know you want them to succeed. Link them up with fellowships, projects, and opportunities. Be an advocate for the mentee, and promote their work in the field.

How can I get involved in the OPA Peer Mentoring Program?

Please contact: Lorraine Taylor at the OPA Office by phone: (905) 827-4659 or email: opa@bellnet.ca

We can all use a Mentor

We can all be a Mentor


By: Mamta Gautam, M.D., FRCPC, OPA Council Member

This article appeared in the November 2002 issue of Dialogue

Published by the Ontario Psychiatric Association