Mentoring Tips

The following comments and suggested tips are based on feedback obtained from former participants of the STEP and MARC programs. Use these prior experiences to help address similar situations you may encounter in your mentoring relationship.


Some common challenges reported by former participants of the MARC and STEP programs:

"My mentoring partner was too busy to participate much. It would have been nice if we had more interaction."

"My mentee contacted me one time. I responded to the e-mail and didn't hear back. In my opinion, the mentee should be seeking out the mentor initially and on an ongoing basis."

"My mentee pretty much always fizzled out. I didn't think I should hound them with e-mails. If they didn't respond after several e-mails, I let it go."

"I think perhaps we needed a better introduction to each other and some ideas on how we should work together."

"I never received any e-mails or newsletters from STEP/MARC."

ASHA's Suggestions

  • Once you have been matched with a mentor or mentee, you should immediately contact each other and begin discussing goals for the program and preferred mode of communication. These can be very informal e-mails or calls or more formal written introductions with resume/vitae—it all depends on the mentoring pair.
  • Keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Everyone is busy these days, so it is not uncommon for individuals to let things lapse. The goal of the MARC and STEP programs is to foster a mentoring relationship. The specific communication will be determined by each pair. That said, if there is a communication breakdown, be sure to contact the MARC or STEP program coordinators who can provide guidance on how to help. If for some reason, one of the pair cannot continue, another match-up may be in order, if available. Bottom line, let and know.
  • MARC and STEP send e-mails that include reference to new resources and programs that may be of interest, articles on timely topics, and friendly reminders to keep communication lines open. The e-mails may not serve everyone in the program, but many have found them helpful to stimulate conversation and provide guidance and resources. If you are not receiving any information that you think you should be getting, please contact or any time. We don't want to overload inboxes; we try to provide a balance of helpful information with relevant, timely topics while allowing the mentoring pairs to set their own goals and guidelines.

Goal Setting

Some common challenges reported by former participants of the MARC and STEP programs:

"The program seems to have little structure in terms of what is expected or required in the way of mentorship goals and expectations."

"Our biggest problem was that my mentee was not in grad school yet. She had no immediate concerns or issues. We discussed her personal life, her plans and her work, but once that was done we had little to talk about. We needed more substance."

"I was shocked at how naive my mentee was about PhDs. I continue to be amazed that someone would have a goal to pursue a PhD in a topic area where they have had absolutely no experience. I would like to see a CV in the future before agreeing to mentor someone. The mentee this year has been far too junior in their journey."

ASHA's Suggestions

  • Know your program. STEP was designed for students' at all educational levels, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral. Each student has goals relative to his or her educational level and the mentor should tailor guidance according to the needs the student expresses. MARC participants are PhD students, postdocs, and entry-level faculty, and their mentoring needs typically relate to completion of their doctoral degrees and topics related to entering and advancing careers in academia.
  • STEP provides a goal-setting resource to assist with the process.
  • Not all mentoring is going to be about CSD program issues; it may also include work–life balance and managing academic and career goals.
  • A mentor should provide guidance and assistance to a student or emerging faculty member who may not be informed about a particular topic or may not be taking the appropriate steps to achieve their goal. It's okay that the mentee doesn't know the right process. Your feedback can be very helpful.

Mentor/Mentee Matching

Some common challenges reported by former participants of the MARC and STEP programs:

"I was [in the MARC program and was] not paired with someone in my area of interest. My mentor was not at all in my area of study, not even close."

"Encourage more face to face meetings and pair students up with mentors who are geographically close to each other."

"Geographic/regional matching should be attempted to foster the opportunity for possible face-to-face contact and observations if both parties are agreeable."

ASHA's Suggestions

  • To the extent that is possible, individuals are matched by what they have provided on the enrollment forms for both MARC and STEP.
    • The MARC program was not designed to pair individuals with similar areas of interest; rather, it was designed to pair individuals based on areas of need related to PhD completion, tenure/ promotion, and academic career and research related issues. Since the program was designed as a recruitment and retention resource to address the shortage of PhD-level faculty in communication sciences and disorders, the areas for matching relate to teaching, research, and service in academia. To the extent that is possible, individuals are matched by what they have provided on the enrollment form, then matched by area of interest. However, this is not always possible.
    • The STEP program does pair individuals based on area of interest but depending on the pool of individuals enrolling, it may not always be possible to match exactly.
  • The MARC and STEP mentoring programs are virtual programs whose primary goal is to match students and faculty with a professional who can help them to address their educational and professional goals. Neither matches individuals based on geography.
  • Mentoring pairs are encouraged to consider opportunities for face-to-face meetings if possible. The ASHA Convention and other conferences are good occasions to plan a meeting. Because of budget limitations, a dedicated meeting coordinated by ASHA is not possible. Pairings are based on mutual areas of need and mentoring expertise related to teaching, research, and service. Whenever possible, geographic location is considered but cannot be guaranteed.

Program Structure

Some common challenges reported by former participants of the MARC and STEP programs:

"The program needs to provide training for mentors of what is expected, guidance on what the program entails, as well as more systematic guidance on mentoring, and mentoring workshops. I would prefer to see more guidelines for mentoring rather than goals; a process flow of how the year should be in terms of start/end period and what STEP program expects when ending the partnership."

"Institute quicker start times with fall term students."

ASHA's Suggestions

  • Some general guidelines are in place but the programs are not designed to be overly structured. MARC and STEP are designed to create a culture where people can proactively support the development of one another. Once ASHA matches the mentee and mentor, the pair should develop their relationship based on each person's needs. This makes the relationship more personal and tailored to each mentee and mentor.
  • MARC and STEP begin in October to accommodate students and faculty who are on a quarter and semester basis. The fall semester is very hectic and students and faculty may need some time to determine their goals.

Best Practices

Some common challenges reported by former participants of the MARC and STEP programs:

"The mentoring relationship was very helpful. Where else can we get information about career development, funding, faculty resources or clinical practice?"

"How can I help my mentee to figure out exactly what they need from me and how I can be most helpful?"

"How can I better motivate and create enthusiasm among my mentees? Mentees should be screened for interest and enthusiasm about the program. Mentors cannot be effective if mentees are unmotivated and unresponsive."

"I would encourage the mentees to not feel so uncertain when asking questions of their mentors. I felt my mentee expended a lot of energy and effort convincing me that she was the up and coming professional rather than just talk to me, just share her concerns, fears, and dreams."

ASHA's Suggestions

  • ASHA provides many resources on its Web site, including funding information, and information on employment settings, faculty resources and career ladder, and clinical practice. MARC and STEP are unable to identify all of the resources that mentees and mentors may need. It is the responsibility of the program participants to seek out needed information.
  • The MARC and STEP programs were not designed to tell the mentee what they need from their mentor. The mentee usually knows best what their needs are, but at the same time there are cases where they don't and are in need of the mentor's guidance to get there. Some students may have difficulty articulating that need, and that is where the experience of the mentor is particularly helpful.
  • MARC and STEP are unable to determine a mentee or a mentor's enthusiasm. The individual may have been interested when he or she enrolled, but circumstances can change by the time the mentoring relationship begins. Please contact or if you are experiencing difficulty with either your mentee or mentor.

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