An important, and sometimes overlooked, function of a mentor is providing psychosocial support to your mentee. Psychosocial support means providing your mentee with the social and emotional resources they need to overcome obstacles and challenges. Having a friend on the job helps lighten the burden of overcoming barriers as a new agent. Need some help brainstorming methods of psychosocial support for your mentee? Check out these main points to get the conversation started:
1. Be a Helping Hand:
In an agent’s first year, they may be overwhelmed with all their new and emerging responsibilities. This can be a very isolating experience, and feeling this way consistently can lead to burnout or turnover of new employees. Be a helping hand during this challenging time by offering advice, personal anecdotes, and examples of past successes, challenges, and wrongdoings. Remember, you were a new agent once too! Think back to when you first entered Extension: How did that feel and how did you work through challenges and obstacles?
2. Create Opportunities for Connection:
As a mentor, you may be your mentee’s first friend on the job. Work through the distance between your offices by scheduling regular meetings for open discussion. Whether virtual or in-person, meetings with your mentee provide a great opportunity for you to develop a professional and social relationship. Regular meetings and casual conversations help build trust over time and make the mentee feel more welcome within UF/IFAS Extension.
3. Cultivate a Positive and Supportive Environment:
Creating a positive and supportive work environment is crucial for the growth and success of new extension agents. Be a source of encouragement, offering constructive feedback, and acknowledging their achievements. Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, and provide guidance when they face challenges, criticisms, or failures.
These tips are just the beginning of what could be a career-long partnership between you and your mentee. Both the mentor and mentee must put forth effort to develop a strong psychosocial relationship that can develop over time; however, it’s never too early to start.
At your next mentor check-in meeting, think about these tips and how you can better support your mentee. How will you create a supportive environment for your mentee?
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.