Junior Faculty Experiences with Informal Mentoring
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Mentoring is one way in which new faculty can acquire the skills needed for a successful academic career. Little is known about how informal mentoring is operationalized in an academic setting. This study had two main objectives: (1) to determine if junior faculty identify as having an informal mentor(s) and to describe their informal mentoring relationships; and (2) to identify the areas in which these faculty seek career assistance and advice. The study employed a grounded theory approach. Subjects were recruited from the clinical teaching faculty and were 3-7 years into their first faculty position. Theoretical sampling was employed in which data analysis proceeded along-side data collection, and collection ceased when saturation of themes was reached. Saturation was reached at ten subjects. Data were collected by individual interviews. Four topics recurred: qualities sought in mentors, processes by which guidance is obtained, content of the guidance received and barriers. Faculty obtained guidance in two principal ways: (a) through collegial working relationships; and (b) through discussion with senior clinicians as part of the evaluative system in the department. Participants discussed the degree of mentoring they received in the areas of: career focus, orientation to the organization, transition of role from trainee to faculty and work/nonwork balance. Barriers identified included an evaluative role and conflict of interest on the mentor's part. Junior faculty identify some relationships from which they receive guidance; however, limitations in these relationships result in a lack of mentorship on career direction and on balancing career with personal life.