“Buddy-mentoring” or “Invitational Near-Peer Dyadic” Mentoring

  • In many school or professional settings, slightly more senior “buddies” are assigned  or volunteer to mentor newbies.  In one case, the senior mentor wrote

Dear X,
I will be your  “Senior Student Mentor” to assist you in your first year. Please feel free to talk to me about anything that you are not feeling comfortable with … it can be issues in the …, classes, …presentations, exams and courses or any other thing. In short, talk to me about anything that you need to know (finding things/ resources or even classrooms, …) or are worried about. I will try my best to help you.
Good luck with your classes and exams.”

  •  Comment: the intent is to be congratulated, but the technique has a potential weakness. Framing the interactions as problem-based might be disinviting to some protégés,   Instead, framing  the relationship as “invitational”  might make it easier for the protégé to accept the interactions as low-cost.
  • There are many forms of mentoring.  Broadly, mentoring is classified as sponsorship/instrumental or developmental /psychosocial.  Sponsorship or instrumental mentoring refers to mentors who provide instrumental means:  salary,  equipment, lab space, etc.   Developmental or psychosocial mentoring provides most of the rest: “friendship” aspects (though mentors do not need to be friends), advice, counseling, and, most important, acceptance, among other functions.
  • Mentoring interactions can be described in these broad terms which describe stereotypical “dyadic” relationships between a “mentor” and “protégé”, but we also see “peer mentoring” between near-equals.  Note that the same person can be simultaneously be the protégé of a senior person, the mentor of a junior person, and a peer mentor.  Especially when we examine psychosocial mentoring, we see that even between senior and junior persons (or, between more or less powerful or skilled persons) that mentoring “goes both ways”.
  •  That makes you near-peers.  We are asking each of you to “take on” a relationship with a single protégé (also called “mentee”)- that makes it dyadic.  You don’t provide much means of instrumental support (though you can offer to buy your newbie a “cup of coffee”- but that’s really a psychosocial gesture rather than instrumental support).

Finally, “invitational” mentoring can be contrasted with “needs-based” mentoring.  In needs-based mentoring, the mentor responds to specific needs of a protégé, whether identified by the mentor or identified by the protégé.  This might correspond to what you see as the kind of mentoring you receive from the faculty around here, including me, for the most part.   Needs-based mentoring can be intimidating, however, because it seems to required that both parties agree there are “needs”.  Some protégés are quite content to admit their problems and needs; others will either too shy, too proud, or unable to recognize their own “needs”.

In invitational  (“buddy”) mentoring, the  mentor deliberately takes the lead, thus (in principle) overcoming the shyness or reluctance of the protégé. The invitation is to share a cup of something, or a meal, or music in the park,  or a visit to the pub with other friends. It’s what a “big brother” or “big sister” might do, or what a friend might do for a friend from out of town.  It helps the protégé feel accepted and THEN, IF there is a need, the protégé might feel comfortable in bringing it up, or accepting the (so-called) “free” advice.

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