Look at your students' development holistically

One of the major differences between supervision and mentoring is that the former is often task-oriented (e.g., completion of a thesis or dissertation) whereas the latter is more about caring for an individual’s long-term development, from a holistic perspective.


Mentoring involves:

  • supporting career exploration, including support with goal setting, networking, and pursuing professional development activities;
  • sharing information about the University’s culture and ways of working (e.g., the hidden curriculum);
  • acting as a sounding board and being open to new ideas;
  • providing honest feedback and the chance for the mentee to reflect and be challenged; and
  • being available for regular meetings.


Mentoring doesn't involve:

  • setting goals for or managing the mentee’s career;
  • doing the mentee’s work;
  • assessment or appraisal;
  • an intimate relationship; or
  • providing a substantive discussion on a specialized field of knowledge.


When mentoring students

  • Be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses as a mentor.
  • Make known your willingness to mentor, as many students find it intimidating to ask faculty members to be their mentors.
  • Encourage students to find peer mentors too, because more advanced students, or postdocs, can provide good psychosocial support.


Effective graduate student mentorship for Early Career Researchers


What support can you provide as a mentor?

Mentoring relationships differ from one case to another, mostly depending on each mentee’s different needs, the capabilities and experience of the mentor, the time commitment, and the emotional involvement of both the mentor and the mentee. Mentees can benefit from the  experience of their mentors.


Reflections on mentorship


Prof. Elena Bennett, 2022 winner of the David Thomson Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching

Prof. Philip S. S. Howard, 2021 winner of the Carrie M. Derick Award for Graduate Supervision and Teaching


Reflection questions for mentors

  • What guidance can I provide to help the mentees to achieve their personal and professional goals?

  • Which part of my career trajectory might cast light on important questions that my mentees have about their careers?

  • What are my expectations about mentor-mentee relationships? What are the benefits for mentees, and what are the benefits for me?

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

Back to top