Mentoring Skills

It's important that you learn how to be in an effective mentoring relationship. Mentoring is not simply answering questions and giving advice; it requires a unique set of skills and practice. These tips will help you to create a successful mentoring relationship.

1. Create an open and supportive climate for discussion

Seek to develop trust by encouraging open, two-way communications; this often means sharing personal experiences or difficult times.  

  • Respect individuality. Your mentoring partner may or may not have a similar style.
  • Be patient as the relationship develops. Talk about your daily life, present ideas and opinions about the professions and discussing options.
  • Make it clear that you hope to learn from this experience.

2. Demonstrate good listening/follow-up skills

Most of us need to improve our listening skills; we tend to talk more than we listen and to interrupt people more than we should.

  • Ask open-ended questions. (Examples: How did you decide to major in communication sciences and disorders? What are your long term goals?)
  • After you have listened fully to a response, ask good follow-up questions to demonstrate genuine interest. (Example: After you've completed your internship, what do you hope to do next to move to the next step?)
  • If you do not understand something, try to paraphrase it to be sure you understand what the person is trying to say. (Example: So what I think you're saying is that you want to broaden your knowledge of opportunities)
  • After you've discussed an issue in one conversation, be sure to ask how the situation has progressed.
  • Don't assume that what worked for you will work for your mentoring partner; rather, try saying something like, "My experience was (xxx). What do you think will work for you?"

3. Provide constructive feedback and advice

It is important for you to match the degree of openness. Do not give negative feedback until you have built a strong relationship.

  • Give a balance of both praise and constructive feedback on how to improve.
  • Always focus on behaviors that can be changed (not personality traits!) and behaviors that are appropriate within the organization/field/environment.
  • Let the mentee set the initial goals. The mentor should give feedback and suggestions.
  • Make goals specific and realistic with target dates; monitor progress and adapt plans when necessary.
  • Do problem solving when issues/barriers arise. Work together and think through strategies and options.
  • Consider and discuss additional ways to get advice and information needed. Use the ASHA Community to widen your network.

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