Be All That You Can Be: Tips for Effective Mentorship in Pharmacy School

Being clear on your goals as a mentee while creating a partnership with your mentor is just one of the ways to have a successful mentorship.

Being clear on your goals as a mentee while creating a partnership with your mentor is just one of the ways to have a successful mentorship, according to a session at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education 2021 conference.

The discussion about mentorships and mentees in particular was led by Kristin M. Janzen, PharmD, BCPS, clinical assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin; Emmeline Tran, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina; Christina M. Seeger, CPhT, MLS, AHIP, pharmacy-health science center librarian at Texas A&M University; Nitesh K. Kunda, MSc, AFHEA, PhD, assistant professor at the Industrial Pharmacy and Pharmaceutics, St. John's University; and Ryan E. Owens, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor of Pharmacy at Wingate University.

Kunda provided an overview of mentorships and how they are used across different professions using the 3 key ingredients of a mentor, a mentee, and a relationship. Further, he described how an established mentor program can help faculty with learning core skills of personable relationships on top of their skills of being effective researchers.

There are 3 types of mentorships, according to Owens, which are classified as informal, formal, and situational. A formal mentorship is through a campus or organization versus an informal mentorship in which a mentee seeks out someone they admire to help them; however, a situational mentorship is very task-oriented.

“If a former mentor does not feel they have the expertise or skillset to help you, they can set you up with a situational mentor for that specific skill,” Owens said.

Seeger emphasized how there is currently a large amount of literature available for mentorship, but not any type of literature for the mentee specifically and how they can be successful. Knowing this, one of her pieces of advice for being a great mentee is to take initiative.

“Only you know your career and aspirations better than anyone, so sharing what you want to accomplish and clearly stating your goals will help your mentor lead you in the right direction,” Seeger said.

In addition, being open to mentor feedback to reflect and grow as an individual rather than taking it as criticism will go a long way.

Seeger also touched on the “lion attitude” concept that mentees should take on to build their confidence.

“You need to be courageous since this is your career, so invest in yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and be welcoming to new experiences to learning,” Seeger said.

For Tran, mentees tend to become a “doormat” in their experiences, especially when they are in situations with their mentor that may not align with their goals. She reiterated that this relationship should be a partnership with open communication.

“Having an established, strong foundation and having mutual respect with open-mindedness will be so important,” Tran said.

She also said that having multiple mentors can be very helpful based on her personal experiences.

“You will receive different perspectives, have an increase in likelihood that the mentor has been in a similar situation, and more availability to cater to your needs,” Tran said.

Seeger mentioned how seeking symbiosis is a big “do” as a mentee, since your mentor is also your colleague. She reminded the viewers that a mentor is also a colleague, so trying to connect as people and build a relationship is crucial, because it is not a transaction. Being respectful of the time spent with a mentor and showing gratitude also further establish this foundation.

In the “social butterfly” concept mentioned by Seeger, being open to mentoring opportunities outside of a formal program may make individuals a stronger mentee.

“Be open to learning from a variety of sources and seek an outside perspective,” Seeger said.

REFERENCE

Janzen KM, Kunda NK, Owens RE, Seeger CM, Tran E. Be All That You Can Be: Do’s and Don’ts of Being A Mentee. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education 2021 conference. July 21, 2021. Accessed July 21, 2021.