We suggest having a regularly scheduled meeting, and at the end of each meeting, be sure to have a specific deliverable prepared for the next meeting. As one example for an applicant who is working on an NSF GRFP application, the specific deliverable might be: by next week’s meeting, have an outline of the Graduate Research Plan Statement drafted.
Establish a mutual understanding of the commitment, and specify modes of communication and response times.
Doing work by email can be fine for exchanging drafts, but a phone or skype conversation is often more efficient. Among other things, live conversations are much better suited to figuring out sources of confusion and for brainstorming about ideas. It might make sense to follow up on phone or skype conversations with an email clarifying some of the main points and the plan for what to work on between meetings.
Remember that being a mentor is not about giving advice or writing materials for the students. It’s about asking questions that will be useful and listening carefully. Of course, giving advice is fine once in a while, but if you find yourself talking more than your mentee, then it might be a good moment to ask a question and listen. You have expertise in grantcraft and this is why your mentee needs your input; working with them to craft a strong proposal will require the wisdom to balance prescriptive and suggestive input.
Establish a mutual understanding of expectations, in terms of the amount of commitment both parties can invest, modes of communication, and response times. Be sure to come to an understanding about what the desired outcomes and mutually agree on how to get to that point by deadline.
Mentorship means taking a particular interest in the professional development of your mentee. This kind of relationship does not emerge overnight and it’s possible that two people just don’t gel together to build an effective partnership. If you’ve put in an earnest effort and you think the student would be better served by a new mentor, please contact us as we have a reserve of potential mentors that are available.