Many of us have either had a workplace mentor or been one at
some point in our careers. For some, it’s a wonderful experience with social,
emotional, and professional perks. For others, it’s a failed relationship that can
end in hard feelings.
When all goes well, though, research shows that mentoring
can nurture a better attitude toward work, improve job satisfaction, and reduce
the likelihood of changing jobs. Plus, mentoring has been linked to career
success, income, and promotions.
Finding the right mentor may even be good for your health. In
a national study of more
than 900 nurses, having a work mentor was related to lower stress and
greater psychological empowerment—two signs of better physical and mental
What makes for a positive mentoring experience? In a newly
published study in Academic Medicine, Sharon
Strauss, MD, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, set out to
answer that question.
Dr. Strauss and her colleagues conducted in-depth interviews with faculty members
at two medical schools with formal mentorship programs. After analyzing the
responses, they identified five key traits of successful mentoring
street. The protege benefits from the mentor’s experience, guidance, and
support. In the best relationships, the mentor benefits, too; for example,
through employer recognition or shared credit for a joint project.
respect. Each party respects the other’s time, effort, and unique abilities.
expectations. The mentor and protege each have expectations for the
relationship, which are initially agreed upon and then periodically revisited.
Both are held accountable for living up to their end of the bargain.
connection. As in any good relationship, the mentor and protege just seem
values. Both parties have a similar approach to their work and personal
These factors may further boost the odds of a high-quality mentoring
contact. Seeing each other often or communicating regularly helps
forge a stronger bond, according to a recent analysis of the pooled
results from earlier studies of mentoring.
As time goes on, mentoring alliances, like other relationships, tend to grow
closer and more supportive.
age gap. Mentors in the first third of their own careers may be better at
helping along newcomers than the old pros, based on a study in Nature. That’s probably because they
have more time and energy to invest.