The Wildlife Society is committed to the ongoing professional development of wildlife students and professionals through a wide variety of programs, resources and activities that help TWS members expand their knowledge, stay up-to-date on new developments in wildlife research, management, and conservation, and advance in their education and professional careers. Mentorship is typically seen as a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship focused on knowledge and skill building to support personal and professional development. Thoughtful mentorship is essential to cultivating an inclusive profession. Effective mentorship is based on the ability of those involved to trust, share strengths, identify with, and authentically engage with one another. Mentorship can help to support the next generation, empower our peers, and contribute to our own growth, development, and passion for our profession.
Benefits of Mentorship
Mentorship is traditionally seen as a paired activity in which an older mentor provides guidance and support to a younger protege. However, there is no one way to engage in mentorship. Mentorship can take on any number of structures or functions to best fit your personal needs and goals (e.g. dyad, triad, collective, etc.).
Mentorship, sponsorship, and coaching are all valuable ways to build relationships and contribute to career development, but there are different expectations associated with each of these practices. It is important to define expectations early to ensure there is mutual understanding for the type of relationship that is being established with others.
Mentorship: a collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship focused on knowledge and skill building to support personal and professional development
Sponsorship: a colleague, typically in a more senior position, actively advocates for sponsee’s career advancements
Coaching: working with someone to identify and develop goals and helping them find the best path to achieving them
Mentorship is not necessarily a long-term engagement, at least not in the initial form of the relationship. Mentoring relationships typically last about five years or less, but, in some cases, relationships may evolve and last beyond 15 years.
Positive mentorship experiences can lead to:
Opportunities for skill building
Higher level of comfort and job satisfaction
Support throughout education and career
Validation of identity
Increased professional competency
Positive social interactions
Decreased work-related conflict
Certified Wildlife Biologist® Renewal & Professional Development Certificate
The Wildlife Society seeks to provide ongoing learning opportunities for wildlife professionals. We encourage our members to participate in professional development activities that help expand their foundations of knowledge, keep up-to-date on new developments in wildlife research, management, and conservation, and contribute to career advancement and personal enrichment.
Members have the opportunity to record continuing education units (CEUs) in six professional activity categories, including mentorship activities (Category III), to meet the minimum requirements for Certified Wildlife Biologist® Renewal and the Professional Development Certificate.
CWB® renewal is required every five years for all CWBs® who were not grandfathered in under the certification requirements prior to 2000. In order to attain certification renewal, professionals must log 80 Continuing Education Units within five years that meet the requirements in one or more of the six professional activity categories. By renewing CWB® certification, professionals demonstrate their commitment to excellence through continued learning and professional development.
A Professional Development Certificate is recognition by the Society that a certificate holder has gone above and beyond in staying engaged in the wildlife profession over the past five years. Applicants do not have to be certified in order to apply. In order to attain certification renewal, professionals must log 150 Continuing Education Units within five years. Professional Development Certificates are good for five years. Membership in TWS must remain in good standing in order for the Professional Development Certificate to remain active over the five year time frame.
Learn more about the Wildlife Biologist Certification Program.
How to Utilize TWS’ Current Resources
Through our TWS Network Online Directory, members can seek and find mentors relevant to their area of focus, location and more. To make this election, members can follow these steps:
- Log in to Your Membership.
- Select “Your Account” → “Update Your Information.”
- Under the category Mentorship and Social Networking, choose between “I am willing to be a Mentor,” “I am seeking a Mentor,” or “I do not want to be a Mentor or Mentee.”
- Click “Save” at the bottom of the page.
Members can search the directory based on various parameters and contact other members with which they would like to initiate a conversation.
The Leadership Institute is TWS’ flagship leadership training program, established in 2006. Each year, the Leadership Institute delivers an immersive training program to a select group of early career wildlife professionals, with a goal of building essential leadership skills and capacity in their current and future roles in the wildlife profession. The mentoring component of the Leadership Institute is meant to allow participants to establish personal leadership goals with the opportunity to engage in one-on-one interactions aimed toward reaching these objectives, improving interpersonal relationship skills, increasing understanding of leadership in the context of natural resources professionals and within The Wildlife Society, and expanding professional networks.
Native American Research Assistantship Program
The Native American Research Assistantship Program – developed collaboratively by the USDA Forest Service, a Premier Partner of TWS, and The Wildlife Society – facilitates opportunities for Native American students to be mentored by USFS Research & Development (R&D) scientists and promotes student advancement and training for careers in natural resource and conservation-related fields. Assistantship participants aid and learn about the USFS’ ecological, science-based approach to decision-making and balancing multiple use management of national forests and grasslands. The Principal Investigator (PI) of the project serves as a mentor, providing sufficient training for students to perform independently and ensure proper safety training. Principal Investigators also ensure that students are given the opportunity to meet with and learn from USDA Forest Service scientists and leadership. Students receive an overview of the USDA Forest Service and information and support for career development and opportunities.
TWS Organization Unit Resources & Opportunities
How to Build A Mentoring Relationship
Typical steps of mentorship include:
Step 1: Identify a potential person or people with which you would like to build a relationship.
- Can be initiated informally or through an established program.
Step 2: Set expectations.
- Develop your vision and set corresponding short- and long-term goals.
- Establish how and when you will engage with each other. Discuss personal time constraints and any possible limitations.
- Determine which forms of communication are most conducive to your relationship structure.
Step 3: Engage in activities for positive growth and development.
- Be conscientious of personal gaps or barriers that may limit your ability to cultivate a personalized relationship based on trust. Seek out training and/or serve as a connector to help address these gaps.
- Identify professional development opportunities, such as networking events or conferences to attend together.
Step 4: Establish if and how you will continue your relationship.
- Celebrate what you have accomplished.
- Determine if your interaction should transition to a new structure or if you would like to continue as is with newly established goals.
Tips & Tricks
Ideas for enhancing your mentorship experience:
- Establish expectations for professional behavior and conduct.
- Maintain mutual accountability and responsibility for all involved. Follow through on any commitments you have made.
- Think about the qualities you have found to be most helpful in previous academic or professional relationships. What do you wish had been different about any of your previous mentoring experiences? Draw on these experiences to support your new or current mentorship.
- Work together to identify commonalities as well as unique aspects of your lived experiences.
- Strive for mentorship that embraces cultural competency to validate identities and experiences, and support one another while navigating the profession.
- Keep conversations neutral or positive (whether these are conversations within or about your mentorship).
- Schedule meetings in advance or give adequate notice as needs arise to engage with each other.
- Summarize the outcomes of each mentoring session to help establish goals for your next meeting.
- Modify your mentoring experience as you go to what works best for you.
- Suggest and share readings, videos, or other resources you have found helpful or interesting that you can discuss during your meetings.
- Create a space where you can be your whole self without fear of disclosing information. A certain amount of personal disclosure is important to developing interpersonal relationships, but also remember that all involved have a right to privacy. Share as much as little as you would like to your comfort level.
- Maintain open and honest communication with mechanisms for feedback.
Suggested topics for mentorship sessions:
- Introductions and setting goals and expectations
- Career development skills
- Leadership topics
- Work-life balance
- Conflict resolution
- Creating inclusive environments
- Community building
- Resume building and review
- Navigating hiring and onboarding systems
- Communication skills
- Networking opportunities
- Professional development and continuing education
- Job shadowing
- Interview practice
- Volunteer together
- Attend a conference or workshop
- Identifying and applying for funding opportunities
- Personality and/or strengths assessment
Templates & Additional Resources
For more information or questions, please contact:
Jamila Blake, AWB®
Professional Development Manager