How do you and your mentor continue your relationship as you move from mentee to colleague and, even, to mentor?
Eventually, the mentee will become a mentor or transition to her or his career. This is a delicate time that requires the mentor to acknowledge that the mentee may now be a colleague or collaborator. It is also a time when the mentee must acknowledge her or his success and become more confident about her or his research. This stage is very exciting: both former mentee and mentor can choose to continue the relationship or end it. If the former, relationship may still need to be negotiated to incorporate the mentee's new status as professional. If the latter, how does one negotiate the mentee's new status as a colleague who no longer needs this particular mentoring relationship?
If and when you arrive at Stage #5, then your mentoring relationship has, perhaps, resulted in reciprocal change and growth. To arrive at this stage, both mentor and mentee have engaged in reflection and cultivation of the relationship, even if it has been short term or situational. In the case of short term and/or situational relationships, identifying when it is time to separate from or redefine the relationship is one way to articulate boundaries and expectations and, even, the possibility of a redefined relationship.
You are now coming to the time when your mentoring relationship has met its goals. Whether the relationship is short term, situational, or long term, similar to other types of relationships, you may find a need or desire to develop it in a different way. If you both agree that it is time to re-evaluate your mentoring relationship and have agreed that separation (Stage 4) is not the option for you, then schedule a meeting (or more) to only discuss the next steps with this primary question in mind: How do you continue your relationship as you move from mentee-mentor to colleague and, even, from mentee to mentor or mentor to mentee?
Stage 5 is a great opportunity for both mentor and mentee to reflect on the initial reason(s) that initiated the mentoring relationship, the mentee’s progress and completion of goals, the mentor’s observations, and an honest assessment of the next steps in the mentee’s life. This is also the time for both mentor and mentee to reflect on their personal and professional needs and wants for the future.
As with the previous stages, we encourage mentor and mentee to use the practices of Bearing Witness and Have You Talked to listen to understand what has been completed, what is being assessed, how each person and their goals have changed, and how they envision their futures. This is not a conversation that should be rushed. If after the first meeting you feel there is more to discuss, schedule another meeting to continue the discussion.
When relationships are in transition, we often want to know immediately all the details and to redefine them before truly reflecting on the process of redefinition. While Stage 5 questions are similar to Stage 4, they are designed to not end the mentoring relationship but to expand or transform it.
While you may utilize Have you TALKED at this stage, by this time mentor and mentee should have developed a practice of dialoging and listening to each. Instead, it may be more beneficial to have a series of short questions.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Have all your goals been met?
- Have you received/offered individually or together what you wanted to receive/offer from the relationship (this may apply to short term or situational mentoring relationships and specifically identified skills or knowledge)?
- Do you both agree that you have outgrown the current form of the relationship, or that it needs to take another form to better support the current mentee’s growth?
- If your answer is no to these questions, then we recommend contemplating whether or not the mentoring relationship can support the completion of the mentee’s goals and whether or not additional mentors might be needed to support it. Remember that one mentor cannot fulfill all the needs of a mentee.
- If your answers are yes, then we recommend – if you have not already done so - scheduling a time to speak with each other using the practices of Bearing Witness and Have You TALKED.
Before the meeting:
- State the reason for the meeting. Consider what a “redefined” relationship may look like in one year, three years, five years; after graduation; after sabbatical; or after retirement.
During the meeting:
- Thank each other for the opportunity to have the mentoring relationship, and being able to receive/offer what was originally set as goals.
- Whether you are the mentor or mentee be clear about what you have received from the relationship.
- Be clear about how and why you envision a different type of relationship with each other: professional mentoring relationship (e.g., senior scholar/researcher and emerging scholar/researcher), collaborators, soon to be colleagues, possible friends.
- Whether the mentor or mentee, be clear about how you’d like to move forward.
- Mentee: Ask whether or not the other person is interested in working together in a different way. This is the beginning of Stage #5, the redefinition of the mentoring relationship. Be clear about how you envision this new relationship. While professional collaboration is often the easiest and most obvious, depending the length of your mentoring relationship you may have already discovered a beginning friendship that balances personal and professional needs.
- Mentor: State whether or not this new vision of your changing relationship is something of interest to you, or how you are envisioning the redefinition of your relationship. As you near the end of the mentoring relationship, are you the one in need of mentoring?
- Conclude the meeting by:
- Agreeing what steps need to be taken/completed to redefine the mentoring relationship you currently have into another kind of mentoring relationship, a non-mentoring professional relationship, or a professional friendship.
- Being clear how you will stay in contact during and after this stage.
- Giving gratitude.
How long does this stage last? There is no specific time for the process and development for redefining a mentoring relationship. However, if both mentor and mentee have been intentionally engaged with one another and have used their time to reflect and cultivate a relationship based on respect, bearing witness, dialogue, and understanding, you may discover that your relationship has been changing and redefining as you both grow.
Trust is the foundation of every relationship. If trust has been part of the relationship, redefining the relationship will invite both mentor and mentee to trust themselves and each other to grow in ways that could lead to friendship and professional support and collaborations that last well beyond the number of years of the initial mentoring relationship.
Although redefinition can be seen as the fifth articulated stage of mentoring, it is not by any means the “final” stage of mentoring. That is, after a mentoring relationship has been redefined, there are multiple opportunities to discover other aspects of a such a relationship, especially if mentor and mentee switch roles, or the relationship becomes a long-term professional mentoring relationship that moves between the personal and the professional.
As with Stage 4 – Separation - this stage is an opportunity for both mentor and mentee to show respect for an often misunderstood and resisted part of human relationships: change. The paradox of change: that without it neither mentor nor mentee can move forward and grow in new ways. However, Stage 5 – Redefinition – is also an opportunity for mentor and mentee to understand the power of transformation in both their lives. It is an invitation to discover the unexpected in both one’s research and one’s self.