Have you ever had the opportunity to mentor a student intern or clinical fellow? This spring, I am mentoring an undergraduate student who is interested in speech pathology. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to do this, and as a result, I did a little research to ensure I would know what to expect. In my research I came across useful tidbits for both mentors and mentees. I thought I would share some of the “good ones” here, as well as some of what I’ve learned so far.
Tips for Mentors:
- Keep an “open door” policy. This might seem like a “no-brainer,” but the student is there to learn from you. Encourage questions. Make time to explain what you are doing, even if you feel you don’t have time.
- Be friendly. Another fairly simple concept, but this can make all the difference! Have you ever worked in a setting or worked for someone who just wasn’t friendly? It can really put a damper on even the best work settings.
- Be flexible and be prepared. Students should learn what the job is really like. Change up your schedule to allow them to see different populations/disorders/group settings. Show them child-directed versus therapist-directed types of interventions. Conduct evaluations, data, etc. Let the student get involved (under supervision) when they are ready! Involvement is the best way to learn.
- Prepare your clients. This was one I learned in the moment. Some of my children got very shy around a new person. Encourage the mentee to interact with students as much as possible to help reduce any client anxieties.
- Be confident! Ok, this was one I really struggled with in the beginning. However, I truly surprised myself when I was able to answer some of the “tough” questions. Remember, students are there to learn from you, not to judge you! Even if you don’t know how to help them in the moment, you can always search for resources later on.
Tips for Mentees:
- Don’t be afraid. I mean this quite literally. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to get involved, or to ask for responsibility. You are there to learn, and the best way to learn is to get involved!
- Explore other areas. One thing I wish I had done more as a student is to observe occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, etc.We all work together as a team, and a thorough understanding of all related fields is very important.
- Network. You never know where you’ll end up looking for a job! Forming good relationships with staff can be a foot in the door to future employment.
- Make/take materials. This is a great time to learn from others about what materials are “worth it” and to get lots of free copies! I am still using so many materials that I made during undergraduate clinic. It has saved me tons of time!
- Ask for help. This is a mentored experience. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, let your mentor know! You are still learning, and should not expect to know everything!
What do you think? What do you wish you’d known as a student? As a mentor?