Building Awareness of Your Mentoring Program: Tips for Research Societies
Mentoring programs offered by research societies have the potential to provide many benefits to all those involved in them. However, these benefits cannot be realized unless members are aware of and participate in the programs. Various strategies have been used by scientific societies to build awareness and attract participation in their mentorship programs.
Mentoring is an important activity in academia for several reasons. It not only builds the skills and confidence of early career researchers but also provides leadership experience for the mentors. With the proper focus and targeting, research societies can use their mentoring programs to increase diversity and extend outreach to underrepresented populations, thus growing their membership and increasing participation in the sciences. The ultimate result of successful mentoring is the promotion of quality research in all disciplines.
Strategies to build awareness of the mentorship program
The first step in marketing a mentorship program is to build awareness. This can take many forms, and organizations that are successful in this will use several avenues. Here are some examples that a research society might consider:
- Crafting a compelling announcement email that includes the relevance of the program and a call to action;
- Highlighting the program during the annual conference;
- Encouraging society influencers to talk about the program;
- Placing program information prominently on the society website;
- Featuring the program in the society newsletter;
- Creating mentorship programs targeted at members from underserved groups (e.g., racial or gender minorities).
Strategies to build a solid pool of mentors
Strong mentoring programs require strong mentors. Research societies have used various strategies to attract a solid pool of mentors. Several of these strategies are briefly described here.
- Articulate the value of mentoring for mentors. The International Society for Third-Sector Research includes reflections by both former mentors and mentees on their website.
- Get all society leaders on board and encourage them to leverage their professional networks
- Provide training resources (including soft skills) – For example, on a webpage dedicated to mentoring resources, the American Society of Nephrology offers links to presentations, case studies, and activities for both mentors and mentees. The Academy of Medical Sciences offers free masterclasses for those interested in mentoring, and the American Psychological Association includes links to a number of resources related to mentoring on their website.
- Set up different types of mentoring programs to allow mentors to commit to different time requirements – For example, the American Society of Transplantation has both short-term and long-term mentoring programs: a short-term program consisting of one meeting during the annual conference and a more traditional long-term program which includes 5 or more years of communication and constructive criticism on the mentee’s research and manuscript submissions. The mentor and mentee are also expected to have at least one face-to-face meeting annually, and the mentee may be invited to assist with the mentor’s research, if suitable.
- Provide rewards and recognition for mentors – The American Society of Diagnostic and Interventional Nephrology recognizes their mentors at their annual scientific meetings. The American Association for the Advancement of Science honors ”individuals who during their careers demonstrate extraordinary leadership to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in science and engineering fields and careers” through lifetime mentor and mentor awards. The recipients of both annual awards receive a monetary prize, commemorative plaque, and expense reimbursements for attending the annual meeting.
Strategies to build a solid pool of mentees
Finally, strong mentors need interested and enthusiastic mentees to create a successful mentoring program. Some strategies to build a solid pool of mentees are briefly described here.
- Clearly outline potential benefits of having a mentor and the opportunities for careeradvancement your program will offer.
- Identify the social media platforms/forums used by early career researcher members of your society – Post information about your mentoring programs in the identified platforms, perhaps posts written by current or past program participants.
- Include details about mentorship in onboarding emails
- Share success stories (especially through rich content formats like videos) – The Academy of Medical Sciences has a number of case studies posted on its website that describe the experiences of mentees in its programs.
- Offer different types of mentoring programs that allow mentees to choose the amount of support they need. For example, the System Dynamics Society offers four different mentoring programs, including peer mentoring, one-on-one mentoring, short-term modeling assistance, and publishing assistance.
- Offer mentorship as a reward specifically for student/graduate student members – For example, the American Society of Hematology presents mentorship opportunities as awards to medical students, residents, and graduate students.
To build a strong, active, and successful mentoring program, research societies may want to consider creating a public relations plan that is designed to promote the program through various channels. Communications sent at various times, such as when the application period opens and closes, can be useful, as can sending frequent messages to members about the benefits of participating in a mentorship program for both mentors and mentees.
The success of a mentorship program depends partly on how well it meets the needs of early career researchers. Find out more about their communication preferences, information behaviors, and other needs in this whitepaper.