Mentor Resources

Preparing for Your Conversation


There are 10 toolkits for mentors, to support the continuous improvement of postdoc mentoring practices. Each toolkit contains:

  • An evidence-based video that introduces the topic of interest
  • A video where fellow mentors share about their mentoring practices and favorite tools
  • Reflection prompts to prepare to actively listen to the mentee
  • Additional readings, videos and podcasts to further explore the topic
  • Supporting Postdoc Career & Professional Development

    Optional Preliminary Readings

    Montgomery, B. L. (2017). Mapping a Mentoring Roadmap and Developing a Supportive Network for Strategic Career Advancement. SAGE Open, 7(2).

    Abstract: This article presents a proactive, individual-centered mentoring model which meets a recognized need for defined, practical methods for supporting comprehensive career planning and strategic development grounded in personal career aspirations. The developed model consists of a mentoring roadmap charting process and construction of a developmental mentoring network based on an integrative literature review of successful mentoring practices and adaptation of tested methods for retrospective analyses of effective mentoring. The mentoring roadmap concept encompasses the following steps: (a) self-reflection, (b) establishment of mentor–mentee relationship(s), (c) maintenance of mentoring relationships, and (d) advancing in mentoring relationship(s). To support strategic advancement along a defined mentoring roadmap and toward attainment of individual goals, the identification and cultivation of a broad collection of mentoring resources or mentors (i.e., nodes) and the relationships (i.e., edges) which connect these nodes in an effective mentoring network topology are discussed. The mentoring roadmap and network model is proposed as complementary to top-down or formal organizational mentoring interventions and as effective for short- and long-term career development planning as a self-guided assessment or mentor-engaged tool to support individuals seeking mentoring.

    Introduction Video

    Tools for Career Planning

    Discussion Questions

    • What has been helpful for you to make career decisions and navigate career transitions? How can some of these tools and approaches be helpful for current mentees?
    • What have previous mentees of yours been grateful for as you supported them in their professional development and career transitions?
    • What intentional strategies exist among faculty in this department or program to support new postdoctoral scholars after they join the institution? How about for postdocs transitioning to a different job?
    • What resources/offices/tools are available to support the professional development of postdoctoral mentees and mentors in your department or at your institution?
    • What are barriers to supporting newcomers and people who transition to a different career in our department? Our institution? What do you think could help better support them?
    • What would you like to do to learn more about the career trajectories of PhDs who have transitioned to a range of career paths?
    • Is there a strategy that you heard today, either during pre-session or from your colleagues, that you think our program or department should implement?
    • How can we iterate on this work over time?
  • Cultivating Inclusive Research Teams

    Optional Preliminary Readings

    Adams, Meyers, M., & Sekaja, L., (2020), “Positive Leadership: Relationships with Employee Inclusion, Discrimination, and Well-Being.”, Applied Psychology, 69(4), 1145–1173,

    Abstract: The diverse nature of 21st-century organizations has compelled leaders to minimize discrimination and bring about inclusion amongst their employees. One of the ways this can be achieved is through authentic, respectful, and inclusive leadership. The aim of the present paper was to (1) explore whether the three leadership styles can promote inclusion and curtail discrimination in the South African context and (2) ascertain whether this relationship has any bearing on well-being across Dutch, German, Icelandic, Indonesian, and South African contexts. To reach these aims, two cross-sectional studies have been conducted. In Study 1, 569 employees were surveyed, and results indicated that all three leadership styles loaded on a common latent factor (positive leadership) that was positively associated with both inclusion and discrimination. In Study 2, 1,926 employees were surveyed across the five countries. Results indicated that once again, the latent, positive leadership factor was positively associated with both inclusion and discrimination. Furthermore, inclusion, when compared to discrimination seemed to be a stronger mediator in the relationship between positive leadership and well-being. We propose leadership development that will cultivate positive leadership behaviors for the benefit of employee well-being and collaboration in increasingly diverse teams.

    Angela Glover Blackwell, (2017), “The Curb-cut effect”, Stanford Social Innovation Review,

    Synopsis: This piece tells the story of the curb-cut effect, i.e., how Michael Pachovas and friends in wheelchairs poured cement into the form of a crude ramp by a curbside to allow people in wheelchairs to move more freely from and to the curbside. That act of political activism led to more changes that improved accessibility as a whole for persons with disabilities to buildings and public means of transportation. It also allowed many more curbside users, e.g., people pushing carts or strollers, wheeling suitcases, or skateboarding, to move more freely. The author of the piece then uses the curb-cut effect story as an image to define equality and equity, and to make the point that making some changes that help include specific groups of people or increase equity across different identity groups can benefit the entire community.

    Introduction Video

    • Pilot study evaluating this mentoring program based on the CARES model: Lewis, V. Martina, C. A., McDermott, M. P., Trief, P. M., Goodman, S. R., Morse, G. D.,LaGuardia, J. G., Sharp, D., Ryan, R. M, “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mentoring Interventions for Underrepresented Minorities”, Academic Medicine 91(7):p 994-1001, July 2016. | DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001056.
    • Angela Byars-Winston et al., “A randomized controlled trial of an intervention to increase cultural diversity awareness of research mentors of undergraduate students”, Sci. Adv.9, (2023). DOI:10.1126/sciadv.adf9705.
    • Rose, B. S., PhD. 2022, “Inclusive Leaders Create And Sustain A Winning Culture”, Leadership Excellence, vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 10-12.

    Discussion Questions

    • How confident do you feel that you are an inclusive mentor? How do you know?
    • How do you and your team value the contributions of each team member?
    • What intentional strategies exist among faculty in this department or program to mentor inclusively?
    • What conversations do you have with your postdocs that foster inclusion?
    • What are your barriers to mentoring inclusively?
    • Is there a strategy that you heard today, either during pre-session or from your colleagues, that you think our program or department should implement?
    • What ways can we assess mentees’ feedback? Do we have existing ways of knowing about their experiences that we could build on?
    • How will we iterate on this work over time?
  • Supporting Postdoc Wellness & Resilience

    Optional Preliminary Readings

    Firzly, N., Chamandy, M., Pelletier, L., & Lagacé, M. (2022). An Examination of Mentors’ Interpersonal Behaviors and Mentees’ Motivation, Turnover Intentions, Engagement, and Well-Being. Journal of Career Development, 49(6), 1317–1336. doi: 10.1177/08948453211039286.

    Synopsis: the authors present the results of a study conducted with 358 undergraduate student employees, to collect empirical evidence of the impact of mentors’ interpersonal behaviors on mentees’ motivation, well-being, engagement, and work outcomes. The approach used in the study is based on the Self-Determination Theory, which proposes that individual motivation (partly autonomous and partly controlled) derives from the satisfaction and frustration of psychological needs. The authors then propose two models to link interpersonal rapport with colleagues and the work environment on the one hand, and with mentors on the other hand, with mentees’ turnover intention, work engagement and well-being. Using 9 different questionnaires and scales, they collect data to (1) understand how mentees perceive their relationships with their mentors and work environment, (2) characterize the motivation in the mentoring relationship, (3) evaluate mentees’ turnover intention, work engagement and well-being. After statistical analysis of the data collected, the authors adjusted their models with standardized regression coefficients. The findings of this study support the fact that “mentors’ need-supportive interpersonal behaviors [are] associated with greater autonomous motivation at work and in the mentoring relationship and, in turn, to greater well-being and work engagement, and to lower turnover intentions. In contrast, need-thwarting interpersonal behaviors [are] associated with greater controlled motivation at work and in the mentoring relationship and, in turn, to lower well-being and work engagement, and to greater turnover intentions.”

    Introduction Video

    • Brent D. Rosso, Kathryn H. Dekas, Amy Wrzesniewski, On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review, Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 30, 2010, pp. 91-127, ISSN 0191-3085,
    • Book chapter: Keyes & Waterman, 2003, Dimensions of Well-Being & Mental Health in Adulthood in Bornstein, MH, Davidson, L, Keyes, CLM, & Moore, KA (eds) 2003, Well-Being : Positive Development Across the Life Course, Taylor & Francis Group, Mahwah. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central.
    • London, Manuel & Noe, Raymond. (1997). London’s Career Motivation Theory: An Update on Measurement and Research. Journal of Career Assessment. 5. 61-80. 10.1177/106907279700500105.
    • Martin MY, Stanfill AG. On the road to achieving work-life balance in academia. Clin Transl Sci. 2023 Apr;16(4):553-556. doi: 10.1111/cts.13485. Epub 2023 Feb 15. PMID: 36789892; PMCID: PMC10087064.
    • American Psychological Association. (2020, February 1). Building your resilience.

    Discussion Questions

    • Describe what effects, if any, reflecting on the job stressor evaluation prompts or completing the healthywork survey helped you characterize aspects of your relationship to work or your definition of work/life integration?
    • Would you consider asking your mentees to do a similar assessment, and discussing the results of the assessment with them afterward? Why or why not?
    • How do you intentionally support your mentees in being productive while being resilient? 
    • Do you have a favorite resource (podcast, article, campus resource, playlist, manifesto) on the topic of resilience or wellness? How did you discover it and why do you like it?
    • How does your department or institution support your resilience and wellbeing? How about for postdocs?
    • How do you support postdocs when they have a need (e.g., mental health challenge, feeling singled out) that you may not be able to help answer on your own?
    • Is there a strategy that you heard today, either during pre-session or from your colleagues, that you think our program or department should implement?
    • How can we iterate on this work over time?
  • Setting & Revising Goals & Expectations

    Optional Preliminary Readings

    San C McConnell, Erica L Westerman, Joseph F Pierre, Erin J Heckler, Nancy B Schwartz (2018), “Research: United States National Postdoc Survey results and the interaction of gender, career choice and mentor impact”, eLife 7:e40189.

    Synopsis: This eLife paper reports data collected through a national survey of postdoctoral scholars (7,603 postdoctoral respondents from 351 US institutions), conducted to collect demographic data, factors impacting their satisfaction with the mentoring received, and key factors influencing their career decisions. Among the survey respondents, 53% were female and 47% male, 54.5% were 30-34 years old, 51% were non-US citizens, and 71% had male mentors. Male respondents were more likely than female respondents to be married/partnered and have children. Male respondents were also likely to be paid more than female respondents, on average, and the salary received varied from a field/state to another – a detailed map of the cost-of-living-adjusted postdoctoral income is provided in Figure 2. Interestingly and beside access to specific professional development opportunities (e.g., training in pedagogy or mentoring), two factors were found to significantly impact postdoctoral scholars’ career decisions and satisfaction with the mentoring received: the perceived mentor support of their career plan and feelings of career preparedness.

    Introduction Video

    • Wood CV, Jones RF, Remich RG, Caliendo AE, Langford NC, Keller JL, et al. (2020) “The National Longitudinal Study of Young Life Scientists: Career differentiation among a diverse group of biomedical PhD students.”, PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234259. 
    • Ben J. Vincent, Clarissa Scholes, Max V. Staller, Zeba Wunderlich, Javier Estrada, Jeehae Park, Meghan D.J. Bragdon, Francheska Lopez Rivera, Kelly M. Biette, Angela H. DePace, (2015) “Yearly Planning Meetings: Individualized Development Plans Aren’t Just More Paperwork”, Molecular Cell, 58(5), pp.718-721,
    • Masters KS, Kreeger PK (2017) Ten simple rules for developing a mentor–mentee expectations document. PLoS Comput Biol 13(9): e1005709.

    Discussion Questions

    • How does your definition of a successful postdoc position align with your postdoc mentees’? How do you know?
    • What tools do you use to set and (re)align expectations with postdocs’ vision of success/career prospects? Why do you find them helpful?
    • How does the department or the institution support postdocs and their mentors accordingly?
    • How do you orient or onboard new postdocs to your team right after they join?
    • How do you and your postdocs characterize productivity, healthy work/life integration and boundaries?
    • How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your mentoring practices? What data/information do you use to decide whether you need to change something in your mentoring approach?
    • Is there a strategy that you heard today, either during pre-session or from your colleagues, that you think our program or department should implement?
    • How can we iterate on this work over time?

Share how you are using our toolkits!

Willing to share how you are using the Productive Postdoc Conversation toolkits to illustrate how you deepen your mentoring practices in grant proposals or promotion dossiers? Here is a list of mentoring statements to get you started!

What brings you here?

  • What brought you here?
    What brought you here?(Required)
    How often do you let your postdoc mentee(s) initiate or lead conversations about their professional development?(Required)
    1 = Never | 5 = All the Time
    How productive are the conversations you have with your postdoc mentee(s)?(Required)
    1 = Not Productive At All | 5 = Very Productive

    Willing to share more feedback? Please take this post-material use survey!