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Tamara Bertrand Jones on Finding and Working With a Mentor

I’m Tamara Bertrand Jones and I evaluate programs and services in Student Affairs at Florida State University. I’ve always been intrigued by the ways that different people develop the skills they need in order to be successful in their chosen profession. Fundamental to the success of budding evaluators is the important interaction with successful evaluation role models.

AEA has many programs that promote the exchange of knowledge between novice evaluators and more experienced professionals, including the Pipeline Program, the Graduate Education Diversity Internship Program, and the Multi-Ethnic Issues in Evaluation TIG sponsored mentor lunch held during the annual conference. The programs provide formal ways to link mentors and mentees.

Developing mentoring relationships with other evaluators not only helps to provide the evaluation exposure needed, but can also be a source of personal and professional support for both the mentor and the mentee. For graduate students or new evaluators not already engaged in a mentoring relationship, here are some tips that to help you take the first step in developing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Hot Tip: Develop a list of characteristics you desire in a mentor. Do you want someone who has the practical evaluation skills, communication skills, and/or professional standing you can aspire to?

Hot Tip: Seek mentors through relationships developed by attending professional association meetings and conferences, professional development workshops, and other gatherings where evaluation is a focus. These connections serve as a means to hear about opportunities in the field. In addition, these networks facilitate sharing, collaboration, professional visibility, and skill development.

Hot Tip: After you have developed your list of characteristics and have identified potential mentors, reach out to them. Send an introductory email; schedule a meeting to establish a personal connection. At the meeting, discuss your future goals and career plans, and how you envision the relationship benefitting both you and the mentor. Remember that mentoring relationships work both ways.

Hot Tip: Be clear about expectations of your mentor. Communicate to confirm that his/her expectations align with yours. Do not expect one mentor to meet all of your needs. If, after you have discussed expectations and one mentor cannot provide everything on the list, continue to pursue the relationship with your newly revised expectations. Take the time to find additional mentors that can meet your remaining needs.

Hot Tip: Be open to mentors from a different gender or ethnicity. Just as one mentor cannot meet all of your needs, mentors of different ethnic backgrounds or genders bring different aspects to the relationship based on their lived experiences. These experiences may be different from your own and can add a depth of perspective that you may not have previously considered. This heightened awareness can only serve to improve your evaluation skills.

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