Most mentoring relationships come to a natural ending: the original issues have been resolved, one or other of the parties has moved on, or the agreed time limit is reached. A good ending involves a review of the mentoring process, learning and achievements, and a celebration.
The HSRAANZ Mentoring Program runs for approximately 12 months. The one-year time limit on the formal mentoring relationship aims to provide "turnover" and opportunities for more participants. It also allows mentors and mentees to reflect on the process to date and make sure they are on the same page for what happens next. Participants may decide to end the relationship or to continue on an ad-hoc/informal basis beyond the 12 months program.
As our 2018/19 Program draws to an end and we asked a couple of our pairings to reveiw their mentoring journey and provide advice for prospective mentors and mentees.
Why did you participate in the Mentoring Program?
Mentee 1— I had finished my PhD a couple of years back, landed a couple of post-doctoral positions in two different areas (Dementia and Child Protection) and also held a non-academic research position in government (in Cardiology health systems and outcomes research) and I was not sure where my career was going and what I needed to focus on. So I thought it might be a good idea to get some help, talk to someone who has been there and done that, and do some reflective practice in. All my research work has been in health services research so I decided to re-sign up to the association and to apply to have a mentor.
Mentor 1— I have participated in several mentoring schemes, both as a mentee and more recently a mentor, and have found the experience valuable and rewarding. Throughout my academic career I have had many mentors, both formal and informal who have provided invaluable support and advice. I feel very privileged to be able to provide support and encouragement to the next generation of academics in Health Services Research and to be able to give something back to my profession. This was my main motivation for becoming a mentor in the HSRAANZ Program.
Mentee 2 - I participated in the program because I was looking for some information about my options regarding life after PhD. I had been a PhD student for almost 2 years and was thinking about what my next steps were or could be. I was looking for someone specifically within the health economics discipline to offer advice.
Mentor 2 - I was keen to be involved in the program as I step up into increasing leadership. It is important to be making a contribution to my discipline through mentoring. I am also keen to establish links with researchers in other groups.
Did the Program meet your expectations? How?
Mentee 1 - Yes absolutely. Firstly, the Association’s matching process was spot on for both my intersect of health services research and health economics as well as a balanced perspective and thinking on research, career and personal life. The goal setting exercise and putting together the mentoring plan at the start of the mentoring relationship was crucial in making sure my needs as a mentee were met. I have since been able to make informed and well advised decisions on what I want to achieve in the immediate year, in the short-term and long term. Some of my immediate goals have already been achieved, with more in progress. My mentor has assisted me with papers and grants while also providing mentoring advice on specific analysis, peer-review processes, planning writing and publications and planning professional exchange and sabbaticals.
Mentor 1— Yes. I feel the matching between myself and my mentee was excellent. While we work in different areas of HSR we use very similar methodologies – which I think is the most important aspect. This enabled me to draw directly on my experience and provide technical, as well as general career, support. Our points of difference made our time together interesting and made me have to think more generally about facilitators and barriers to career progression than perhaps I would have done had my mentee been working in exactly the same area. My mentee was also extremely motivated and undertook the goal-setting in a professional and considered manner. This got the relationship off to a good start and enabled us to develop clarity in what we wanted to achieve. As time passed we have relaxed with one another (even though our interactions were limited to the phone) and have developed a style of communicating that has allowed frank and forthright discussion.
Mentee 2 - Yes, it was really valuable. Firstly, it was comforting to get some assurance that all would be well post-PhD. Secondly, my mentor provided some practical advice on what options were available to me.
Mentor 2 - Yes, my mentee made regular times with me and came prepared with questions that she wanted feedback on. We caught up a couple of times in person also which was great.
What did you get out of participating in the Program?
Mentee 1 - Valuable advice on day-to-day aspects of an early career researcher as well as big-picture thinking and insight, a non-judgmental sounding board, grounding in reality while encouraging ingenuity and enterprise.
Mentor 1 - I have thoroughly enjoyed our journey together. On a personal note the Program has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my own career, both good and bad. I have also had the pleasure and satisfaction of providing advice and encouragement to someone who responds with interest and values our discussions. Contributing in a positive way to someone else’s development is rewarding in of itself.
Mentee 2 - My mentor gave me invaluable feedback on my CV. She directed me towards which areas of my CV I needed to focus on and which areas were adequate. In particular, she demonstrated what would be required to be competitive for a fellowship. This involved a discussion about my publication strategy and teaching commitments.
Mentor 2 - It was great to see my mentee progress throughout the year and to hear about her progress. I understood more about the expectations and situation of PhD students in other institutions and heard about how different supervisors were supporting students.
What did you have to do to make the most of the experience/opportunity?
Mentee 1 - Initially I had to spend considerable time thinking about what I want, what I enjoyed, why I am doing what I am doing etc to be able to create a foundation from which to plan my career and set goals. After that it was about constantly reflecting and identifying aspects of my work and career that need clarification and understanding to be able to take to my mentoring discussions and get the kind of advice that I mentioned before.
Mentor 1 - I had to devote some time to the partnership and I had to listen to my mentee to be able to really understand what they wanted out of the process, rather than what I thought I should give them. I also had to be willing to speak frankly about my experiences and to open up to my mentee about what worked and what did not and why throughout my career.
Mentee 2 - Be proactive about setting up meetings. Also, make the most of meeting by having specific questions or issues you want addressed. For example, publication strategy in terms of which journals to target and type of research to pursue.
Mentor 2 - Be flexible, ask questions, try to understand the situation and experience of the mentee. Be generous in providing advice and assistance.
Were there any unexpected benefits?
Mentee 1 - I think the best unexpected benefit of the Program is the professional relationship I now have with a fellow researcher who is on the same journey as me but a few years ahead. I cannot imagine if such a relationship would ever have been formed outside of this mentoring program. We have already decided to continue with the mentoring relationship beyond the year of the Program and I am sure that will bring more unexpected benefits. It is not possible to put a value on the benefit of this Program but if anyone is wondering what benefit one gets out of joining the HSRAANZ as a member, even if you don’t benefit from anything else that the Association offers this mentoring opportunity alone provides value that far outweighs the $100 or so membership fees that one pays annually.
Mentor 1—It has been very rewarding seeing my mentee become more confident in what he wants to achieve and to put into practice some of the strategies we have discussed. We have also developed a close professional relationship that has the potential to continue into the future. This may provide ongoing opportunities for collaboration into the future.
Mentee 2 - I obtained a new contact within the health economics discipline which came in handy when the executive committee for ISPOR (of which I am a member of) were looking for speakers for a workshop. I suggested my mentor to present on her previous fellowship.
Mentor 2 - It was great to receive the invitation to speak by my Mentee which I was not expecting. I will also work to provide an opportunity for my Mentee to deliver a seminar at my University.
What advice would you give to future participants of the program?
Mentee 2 - Have specific queries in mind for your meetings in order to make the most of everyone’s time. Find opportunities such as conferences to catch-up, particularly if your mentor is not from the same city.
Mentor 2 - It was really helpful for the mentee to organise regular phone or skype calls. I really appreciated the preparation she put into preparing questions for me and sending them through in advance. This helped us to focus our conversations on things she wanted assistance with.
Would you recommend the Program to others?
Mentee 1 - Absolutely, if you are interested in moving forward in your career it is an exceptional opportunity to engage with someone who has been or is going through the same journey as you. In my case it was about the big picture strategic look at my career and setting goals which I now feel much more confident about. In the same way it can be useful for any other aspect of study/work in health services research.
Mentor 1 - Yes, no hesitation. For the mentor it provides the opportunity to contribute to the career development of enthusiastic and talented junior academics in our field– while also providing the impetus for self-reflection. It is a very rewarding process.
Mentee 2 - I think it is really useful to get some perspective outside of your own institution. As a researcher, your track record is quite important and it is nice to get some tips and tricks from a more experienced researcher.
Mentor 2 - It is a great program for both mentees and mentors. It facilitates a relationship with a researcher that might not otherwise have occurred. It is valuable to learn from the experience of others in your discipline but at different institutions. It is also always helpful to hear different perspectives on research career strategy as researchers also have different personal experience.