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Mentoring Manual

Giving feedback to a mentee

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E-mail standards for communicating with mentees

Research shows that leading by example is one of the most effective ways to encourage professional development. It is easy to forget to model professional communication and/or to provide feedback to students on their communication style—particularly with the ease of e-mail communication.

During the time leading up to a student’s placement, you will likely have e-mail exchanges. Make sure that you are writing professional e-mails. Once the student arrives take the opportunity to point out what they do well as communicators and how they could improve the professional style of their e-mail communication.

During the placement, if you receive an e-mail from a student that is not professional, return it with a suggestion such as: “I want to respond to your e-mail once you have sent a more professional e-mail. Your concern or question is well thought through, but it is important that you learn to communicate more professionally.  Give it another try…here’s an example.” 

How we handle our frustration, both with the work of the student and our other struggles can have a tremendous impact on the student There are times when a face-to-face meeting is not wise, a time where a well composed e-mail may be something that we can do in a more appropriate way. Consider this when choosing a means of communication.

If the topic is difficult, address or discuss it in a face-to-face meeting. Let the student know in advance what the topic will be. For example, in an e-mail you can state: “Today I would like to meet and discuss your use of the lab and cleaning arrangements. We have discussed these issues before but we still seem to be having some problems. Please be prepared to suggest ideas and/or and needs for additional changes. Please remember the core goals: order and cleanliness in the lab is needed for quality data and respects the needs of others in the lab.” While this may make the student nervous, it will allow them time to prepare a thoughtful response to the problem.

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