What are the benefits of having a contract with my mentee?

Mentoring contracts provide a level of transparency in mentoring and articulate shared expectations for the relationship. Many faculty mentors will tacitly use a form of "contract" by articulating their own needs, strengths, and weaknesses with mentees early on. For instance, a faculty member who knows that she tends to put off tasks might ask for very clear deadlines for reading and responding to student drafts. Similarly, a student who knows that he works better under deadlines request hard deadlines for draft completion.

Students need to know how they work best--do you need someone following up with you frequently to keep you on task? Or do you work better when left to yourself, knowing that you will complete tasks in a timely manner? Students also need to understand that faculty have their own work patterns and preferences, and need to negotiate expectations, rather than assume each party is on the same page. This may seem obvious, but many problematic faculty-student relationships result from a lack of clarity about expectations.

One way to ensure that expectations are clear is to document them in a mentoring contract. A model contract, Peer Mentoring Handbook, is available but all contracts should be adapted to suit the needs and preferences of the mentor and mentee. Developing a contract might seem unnecessary, but establishing expectations early can help students and faculty avoid problems later on.

Of course, all informal and formal contracts and expectations should be revisited and revised periodically, encouraging purposeful mentoring practices through reflection and self-assessment.