How to Assist Effectively as a Mentor in Balancing Work and Life
The following case scenarios are to assist in defining challenges and solutions when balancing work and life. Each case offers tools to evaluate, handle, and improve challenging situation you may face mentoring.
- The challenge of asking for personal information
- When and how to ask about personal information
- How to handle the mentee's refusal to disclose any personal information
- The role of the mentoring relationship in promoting the work-life balance
- A new baby and declining productivity
- Addressing academic advancement and taking time off
- Assistance for promotion despite new baby
- Academic career or family life
- "Life events mentoring"
- An illness in the family
- Addressing the financial stresses of an academic career
- Support for talented junior faculty who have encountered professional or personal impediments
- Funding for care expenses during conference travels
- Local fun vacations
- How to achieve (or at least come close to achieving) the elusive work-life balance
- Advice on balancing a new baby and work needed or not?
- Work-life balance—faculty negotiations
- Explaining personal circumstances
How to Assist Effectively as a Mentor in Balancing Work and Life
The challenge of asking for personal information
A fellow (or post-doc) has just joined your research team. You have met several times to discuss their professional goals and career objectives, potential research projects, sources of funding, and general timelines for their professional life, but you realize that you know very little about their personal goals and objectives and general timelines for their personal life. Should you ask about this "personal" information?
When and how to ask about personal information
A fellow (or post-doc) has just joined your research team. You have met several times to discuss their professional goals and career objectives, potential research projects, sources of funding, and general timelines for their professional life, but you realize that you know very little about their personal goals and objectives and general timelines for their personal life. When and how should you ask about this "personal" information?
How to handle the mentee's refusal to disclose any personal information
A fellow (or post-doc) has just joined your research team. You have met several times to discuss their professional goals and career objectives, potential research projects, sources of funding, and general timelines for their professional life, but you realize that you know very little about their personal goals and objectives and general timelines for their personal life. What could you do if the fellow/post-doc becomes angry and states that "my personal life is none of your business"?
The role of the mentoring relationship in promoting the work-life balance
Dr X is a 32 year old Assistant Professor who joined the faculty five years ago. When first hired, he had negotiated to work 80% time in order to spend more time at home with his young child but had planned to increase to 100% in a few years to pursue the research he had started during fellowship. Lately, however, he is feeling increasing work-life conflict and is thinking of cutting back to 70%, so he could have more time to coach his son's soccer team and pursue his black belt in Aikido. He has not raised these issues with his mentor, a 55 year old Professor, whom he senses is growing frustrated with him. What is the role of the mentoring relationship in promoting work-life balance? What are the responsibilities of the mentor and mentee to insure that work-life balance is addressed? How are work and life expectations identified, and can they both be met? To what extent are the differing value systems of Dr. X and his mentor a factor in their relationship?
A new baby and declining productivity
The mentee shows decreasing productivity as the result of a new baby in their family. The baby is now 12 months old, but things are still slipping through the cracks. What should you do?
Seminar 4: Addressing academic advancement and taking time off
Your mentee has been successful and shares with you his partner is pregnant with their third child and he would like to take some time off. What and where are the rules and regulations for the university? Who can he talk to? Your mentee also wants your assistance with maintaining his on-track promotion. How can you assist?
Assistance for promotion despite new baby
Your mentee shares with you that s/he wants your assistance with maintaining their on-track promotion even though they have a new baby, and it has been a struggle. How can you assist?
Academic career or family life
One of your mentees indicates that academic career is just not compatible with having a family life given the challenges of continued research productivity, obtaining funding, in addition to the increasing demand of more clinical work. What would be your response?
"Life events mentoring"
A postdoctoral fellow goes to his mentor and reports that he is having marital problems. What should you do? Should the mentor be involved in helping him? If so, should the mentor become involved personally, or should the mentor make a referral to other people/agencies? To what extent should the primary mentor be involved in mentoring "life events mentoring" vs. "academic mentoring"?
An illness in the family
One of the junior faculty in your department with aspiration to be an independent investigator tells you that her father has recently suffered a debilitating stroke. Her father resides in Florida. Since she is the only child and because of her close relationship with her father, she wants to visit with him more often to care for him. In order to do this, she is thinking of a part time career.
What would be your advice?
Addressing the financial stresses of an academic career
Dr. John is a 35 year old Assistant Professor who joined the faculty seven years ago. Both he and his wife work at UCSF are committed to staying in San Francisco and would like to buy a home. They recently had a child and they are now both back at work "full-time." Among many life stressors, they are struggling with affording childcare. Dr. John is excelling at his career and will likely be advanced to Associate this year and his wife is also doing well and enjoying her position. He talks with you, his lead mentor, about their challenge of wanting to stay at UCSF but also wanting to buy a home and afford to live in San Francisco. The affordability dilemma is adding tremendous stress to his family and relationship and interfering with his work productivity. What is the role of the mentoring relationship in promoting this affording life balance? What are his options? Are there resources to help him?
Support for talented junior faculty who have encountered professional or personal impediments
Your Mentee had been productive with manuscripts and pilot grants, however, over the last year, their mother was diagnosed with and recently died from pancreatic cancer. Prior to her diagnosis and illness, their mother provided substantial support for the mentee's family including childcare, cooking, and general support. This life event has put the mentee's productivity on a slower course, and your mentee needs support to complete a pilot project for future funding from the NIH.
Funding for care expenses during conference travels
Your mentee would like to attend a national or international meeting, but s/he is with significant elder care responsibilities. S/he asks you whether you know any funding opportunities that support care expenses while faculty travel to conferences.
Local fun vacations
Where can we go for local vacations?
How to achieve (or at least come close to achieving) the elusive work-life balance?
During a recent meeting your mentee discloses that the demands of academia often leave her feeling unbalanced. She enjoys her work, does not mind the focus or drive necessary to thrive in this environment, and has several compelling reasons why she wants to remain in academia. However, her family, friends and outside interests are important too, and she periodically realizes that an intense work focus compromises her ability to maintain relationships and interests. Since this state of unbalance fluctuates, she knows that it is possible to be in a "good phase," and asks how you maintain balance in your life.
Advice on balancing a new baby and work needed or not?
Your mentee is an Assistant Professor, step 3, who has recently had twin girls. Up until now she had been a highly productive faculty member and well on track to make tenure. She has not been struggling since having the babies, and feels she will not have any problems maintaining her career as she has a very supportive family. She shares with you some recent comments made to her by her department chair who suggested she take a year off to take care of the children. Her department chair stated that she took off time when she was had children. What advice would you give your mentee?
Work-life balance—faculty negotiations
Your mentee is a married mother of two young children whose husband and family are well-rooted in the local community. She is finishing a training program and is in search of a job. Her options include a medical center department well suited to her personality and immediate family situation, but out of state and away from her support network. Another is a more local position but with less academic opportunity for advancement. As a mentor, how would you counsel her on her decision making?
Explaining personal circumstances
How do I explain personal circumstances that may have reduced my productivity?