A Discussion Guide for Extension Mentors

I’ve agreed to be a mentor… now what do I do? Building a new relationship with a recently assigned mentee can sometimes be difficult. It is important to provide your mentee with a strong mentor and the resources they need to help them progress through their career and navigate the organization effectively.  

New employees can oftentimes find it difficult to acquaint themselves with their colleagues. A mentor should take the initiative and reach out to their new mentee, either by phone or email, with a brief introduction and offer potential times to meet, either in person or virtually, to answer questions and get acquainted.  

Break the Ice  

Getting a conversation started can sometimes be tricky or feel awkward. If you need help starting the conversation, try out this fun icebreaker: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test 

Take the personality test and ask your mentee to take it independently. At your first meeting, compare results and discuss how your personality type contributes to your work in Extension. 

What do I talk about? 

The old adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” applies to not only the job but also to the mentorship relationship. In many instances, new employees do not know what questions to ask their mentor for guidance or direction.  Below are some topics the mentor can discuss at the first meeting to take the initiative and get the ball rolling. 

1. Career Path 

Obtain a better understanding of who your mentee is by asking questions like: 

  • “What made you apply for this job in Extension?” 
  • “Where would you like to be professionally in 5 years?” 

Start talking about the foundations of career advancement. Early career Extension professionals may be unsure about the path to permanent status/tenure, moving up in the organization, and leading work groups. This is your opportunity to provide insight into your own experiences. 

  • Explain the expectations for permanent status/tenure and promotion.  
  • Additionally, you can explain the differences between titles. (ex. Extension Agent I, II, III, IV or assistant, associate, full professor positions.) 

2. Understanding your Extension role  

New employees may be unsure of their role in Extension. As a seasoned Extension professional, you can offer experiences and share knowledge to help your mentee better understand their role. Consider the following conversations and activities: 

  • Invite your mentee to attend an event that you are leading (ex. Office meeting, volunteer meeting, group event.) Shadowing is a great opportunity for your mentee to better understand their role. 
  • Introduce your mentee to stakeholders involved in your programs. Ask your mentee to tag along with you on a site or field visit. Observing an agent-stakeholder interaction can be extremely helpful for the new Extension faculty.  
  • Explain to your mentee the importance of remaining unbiased when delivering information and suggestions to Extension clientele. 
  • Discuss how you conduct outreach and education programs for Extension clientele. (ex. Your process for planning a program, questions to include on a program evaluation, etc.)

3. Learning the UF/IFAS Extension System 

As a seasoned Extension professional, you may consider yourself an expert on the ins and outs of Extension. However, this might not be the case for your new mentee. Share your knowledge of the system by providing insight on these topics: 

  • Advisory Committees: Ask your mentee if they have developed an advisory committee. Have they had their first meeting? Do they plan on scheduling a meeting soon? If they did not inherit an advisory committee, where should they start? Explain the function of advisory committees and maintaining strong relationships with committee members. For more information, refer to this guide: Extension-Advisory-Handbook-2015.pdf (ufl.edu) 
  • Who are my State Specialists?: Describe the role of the state specialist to your mentee and provide some specialists’ contact information with whom they might have frequent contact. A complete list of UF/IFAS Extension state specialists can be found here: directory.ifas.ufl.edu 

For more guidance on mentoring, refer to the Mentor Training Program on your UF E-Learning account. If you are having difficulty accessing the course, contact PDEC staff here: https://pdec.ifas.ufl.edu/contact.shtml 


The mission of the Program Development and Evaluation Center (PDEC) is to add value to UF/IFAS Extension through improved program development and evaluation processes and the enhancement of professional competencies based on the science of Extension. 


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Posted: March 13, 2023

Category: Professional Development, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Mentorship, PDEC

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