Mentoring Program - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the UW-L IAS Mentoring Program

Who is this program intended for?
This program was designed for instructional academic staff members who wish to be mentored in either a specific topic or in career development in general. While faculty members are encouraged to participate as mentors, this program is not open to non-instructional academic staff, classified staff for students.

What is the orientation session for?
Orientation is an important part of the program. It helps to ensure that all participants have common expectations about what the program provides. It also gives participants a head start on building new networks, provides a framework for mentoring, and explores issues of confidentiality between participants.

Can I really do this activity in two hours per month? What is optimal?
The program calls for no more than two hours per month face-to-face, activities, etc. If you feel that more time is necessary, you can discuss the additional time commitment with your partner in the program or with the Program Coordinator.

May I be a mentee if I have more general goals or do I need to have more specific goals in mind?
Yes. Mentees are encouraged to establish their own goals. Some of the goals are specific, and others are general. Most participants in the program find that, among their other goals, they are able to expand their professional networks.

Who sets goals? How are they set?
The goals are set by the mentoring pair very early in the relationship, but they may be modified at any time. The mentee is expected to articulate the goals s/he wished to pursue; a good understanding of the desired goals is likely to lead to a more satisfactory relationship. Mentors may be able to help in the establishment of goals, but they should not pressure mentees into their own (as distinct from the mentees') goals.

If I have asked my mentor for help but I don't seem to be making progress toward my goals, where do I turn?
Mentors are not expected to know all the answers to all questions a mentee might pose. During the training, mentors are advised to seek information from and make referrals to experts on campus. Many of these resources are listed in the packet participants receive at the training sessions. Mentees are encouraged to become familiar with, and take advantage of, resources available outside the mentoring program. Mentees can also call the Program Coordinator to explore additional options.

Will the relationship work if the person is not in my discipline?
Past experience at other institutions has shown that it will, or at least it can. IAS, regardless of their subject matter area or the geographical area in which they work, share many common characteristics and concerns. An external mentor can be an objective, unbiased observer to which the mentee can consult. However, if the mentee's goal is very specific to his/her discipline, then an internal mentor may be the best choice.

How will this program help me build my own network? How can I make networking work for me?
The mentoring program provides excellent opportunities for expanding the networks of both mentors and mentees. Mentees should tap into the network of their mentors, who have most likely been on campus longer and know more people. In addition, special activities such as brown bags and seminars are usually organized to allow some networking time before the presentation. You are encouraged to use this opportunity to meet some new people.

What shouldn't I expect from my mentor?
This is not a professional counseling relationship. Mentors are not expected to know everything about every possible topic, but they can usually make a referral if that would be helpful. Mentors are not expected to give their mentees unlimited amounts of time or to run interference with their mentees' supervisors. (See also the next question.)

Is this a program to help with personal salary increases and promotion? If not, where is this help available?
A mentee might choose to discuss the possibility of promotion with a mentor, but mentors are not expected to be either experts in human resources issues or advocates for a mentee's advancement. Mentors might make a referral to the mentee's department chair.

Do I have to tell my department chair?
No, you do not need to inform your department chair if you participate on your own time. Ideally, department chairs would see mentees as interested in their own professional development and mentors as individuals who are willing to give something back to the University.

What is the length of the relationship? Short, one-year, forever?
The formal program is for one academic year, but extensions may be necessary. Sometimes a well-defined goal can be reached in less time. In many cases more informal relationships continue well beyond the formal year in the Mentoring Program. Program organizers bring mentors and mentees together. Whether you move on to friendship and a peer relationship is up to you.

Do I have to leave my current mentor after one year? Why?
Current policies of the Mentoring Program are such that the formal mentor/mentee relationship only lasts through the academic year. This is done to allow as many people as possible to reap the benefits of this program. However, the mentoring relationship can certainly continue on an informal basis.

When I complete the year as a mentee, can I become as mentor?
At the end of a year in the program, a mentee will need to decide whether she/he feels sufficiently confident to become a mentor. The decision is completely up to the individual. Perhaps a conversation about the matter with the mentor or with the Program Coordinator would be helpful.

Do I know enough to be a mentor?
Yes, you probably do unless you are very new to the professional work world. Most professionals have something they can teach almost anyone else

Some employees with relatively few years of experience can be successful mentors. One key questions is how much you have learned in your time as an instructional academic staff member.

What do I do if my mentor does not call?
If you are comfortable calling your mentor, by all means do that. Chances are that the person simply is caught up in the pressures of everyday activities. If you would rather not call your mentor, you may call the Program Coordinator for some help.

What if my relationship isn't working or I just do not like my mentor?
You may call the Program Coordinator to discuss your situation. It is possible that a misunderstanding exists. The Coordinator will explore all appropriate options. The Coordinator has no stake in keeping incompatible pairs together, but sometimes a little friendly intervention can resolve a problem.

What if my mentee is not a appropriate match?
You will want to discuss the situation with the Program Coordinator. It is possible that the match was not what you expected, but you, as a mentor, might, nevertheless, be able to provide useful information and guidance to someone who is not very much like you.

Is my participation in this program confidential?
The Mentoring Program Coordinator cannot guarantee complete confidentiality of participation because some documents do list all of the participants in the program. In addition, to facilitate email communication, distribution lists are created. If someone outside the program were to gain access to those lists, names of the participants would become obvious. However, this has not been a problem to the best of our knowledge. Participation in this program is looked upon as an asset to employees. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please consult with the Program Coordinator so that extra measures for confidentiality can be taken.

Please note, however, that discussions within the mentoring pairs are assumed to be confidential.