Mentoring can form a valuable component of a research-engaged academics career development. Mentors can provide advice and support regarding career planning, identifying opportunities and solutions to issues, provide feedback on progress related to career goals in an informal setting and can build and extend professional networks, complementing the advice and guidance provided by your supervisor.

Mentoring others is also an important part of career development for research-engaged academics. The University of Queensland's (UQ) Criteria for Academic Performance Policy have criteria focused on mentoring others, particularly for more senior academics. 

UQ has a Mentoring Policy which: 

  • outlines the objectives of a mentoring policy
  • provides definitions of informal and organised mentoring
  • defines mentoring and how mentoring is different to supervising
  • outlines the role of the mentor and the role of the mentee
  • provides guidance on how Heads of Organisational Units can support mentoring.

Reasons for seeking a mentor

Your reasons for seeking a mentor will assist in identifying the right mentor. Reasons for seeking a mentor may include:

  • building skills and networks to advance and achieve success in a research career
  • transitioning your career to industry, government or community sector or other roles within or outside of the university sector
  • seeking guidance and feedback on specific fellowship, grant or publication goals - noting your supervisor should be aware of such goals and this support would be in addition to that provided by your supervisor
  • seeking general advice and guidance related to identifying approaches to dealing with life and career related challenges and opportunities.

Also, as a mentor you may be seeking to provide advice and guidance on specific areas:

  • successful grant and fellowship applications and publication
  • academic promotion and academic leadership
  • gender and family issues related to career development
  • entrepreneurship and commercialisation
  • engaging with industry, government or community sector to establish research partnerships
  • leading an academic collaboration
  • transitioning out of academia into other careers
  • general advice and support for early career researchers.

Establishing a mentoring relationship

A mentoring relationship should be based on clear agreement of aims and scope. Mentoring relationships can range from formal and structured to informal and unstructured. The person seeking mentorship should discuss with their mentor the aims, scope and nature of a mentoring relationship.

Several faculties, institutes and schools have mentoring programs or supports in place. Determine if you have a local program available by checking with your Research Manager. For a more informal or independent mentoring relationship you might like to independently identify and approach a mentor.

Those seeking mentorship, whether it be through an existing program or an independently established relationship, should seek to:

  • identify your objectives in seeking a mentor – identify what it is that you hope to achieve or learn and how a mentor can assist with that
  • identify a potential mentor that has the skills, knowledge and experience related to your objectives and specific goals
  • consider the scope the relationship, including goals, regularity of meetings and initial agreement of timeframe.

Once a mentor has been identified and agrees to act as a mentor based on outlined mentoring objectives and scope, the pair should again discuss and confirm the scope of the mentoring relationship. e.g. we agree to meet once a month for 12 months to discuss/achieve XXX goals/issues/challenges. By the end of the period we expect to have XXXX.

    Establishing a mentor program

    For faculties, institutes and schools seeking to establish a mentoring program you may consider:

    • developing an internal program, or a program linked with other areas within the University
    • having a register of those willing to mentor and those seeking mentorship which outlines areas of interest/expertise/experience relevant to mentoring to assist researchers to identify appropriate mentors, or for people to be matched in a more formal, structured mentoring program
    • offering workshops and training related to mentoring
    • employing a company that specialises in mentoring for researchers, or early career researchers, examples include those listed below, however you are encouraged to research what would best meet your specific needs: 

    Mentoring resources 

    These mentoring resources and training opportunities provide further tips and guidance regarding establish a mentoring relationship relevant to your career development needs: