- Architect Experience Program trainees are not explicitly required by law to have a "Mentor." However, the Illinois Architect Licensing Board, NCARB and the AIA all strongly recommend that trainees obtain a Mentor to assist them in their professional maturation. If a trainee does not have a Mentor, the training records are signed on both pages by the trainees employer.
- The word mentor comes from the name of Odysseus' trusted friend who leads his son in the search for his father. The word also shares common roots with: "remember" "think" and "counsel."
- Just before a Architect Experience Program participant submits the experience report to NCARB which is done every six months, he or she should make an appointment to meet with you, as their Mentor. The meeting should be arranged by the participant to coordinate with your schedule and should be held in your office or at a place convenient to you. You should review the participant's training progress at this meeting, suggest additional training and supplementary educational activities where certain training areas are felt by you to be lacking, and provide guidance to assure the trainee's well rounded professional growth. This is the minimum level of responsibility of Mentors.
- You may wish to download the Mentor Guidelines, published by the AIA, which can be found at http://www.aia.org/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab090436.pdf
- In addition to the bare minimum, Mentors may wish to take on other tasks to help their trainees gain a better understanding of the profession and prepare them to become licensed. The type and amount of involvement with their training is limited only by the vast creativity of each Mentor.
- Choose several trainees as Advisees and meet with them as a group on a regular basis. The advantage of this scenario is that it helps to create a less intimidating atmosphere when their peers are also present at the meetings. The trainees tend to open up more when encouraged by people of roughly the same age. Inevitably, aspiring architects will feel a bit intimidated by the fact that you are older and more experienced in the profession. There seems to be a sort of safety in numbers effect that takes place when in a group.
- Meet more often with your trainees, for example, once a month. The advantage of doing this is that it makes it easier to track the progress of the trainee and notice when something needs a course correction.
- Arrange a social meeting format with your trainees. For example the former head of the AXP at NCARB, Rob Rosenfeld, had twelve trainee participants with whom he met informally as a group once a month. The monthly meetings took place at one of his trainees' apartments in rotating order, where they have a pot-luck dinner. After dinner, a special topic is discussed. Rob selected the topic of conversation and led the discussion.
- Take your trainees to a cultural event. Dutch treat. This type of experience is likely something that they missed as students, and you can help fill in their under-developed cultural literacy. This should be an enjoyable experience for both you and the trainees. Do not make it a burden on yourself. If this is a regularly-scheduled, expected occurrence, so much the better. Such events could be an opera, a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concert, a theatrical event, or even a wrestling match. Each type of experience can have much to discuss as it relates to architecture.
- Actively recruit the trainees for whom you mentor. Try to get the very best people, and make them want to be your advisee. Ask your trainees to make a commitment to whatever training advisory program you establish. "Fire" trainees that do not show up for scheduled meetings or do not follow through. Be gentle but firm. It is part of the training. Since you are devoting your time to this effort, get something back in return by having the most fulfilling mentoring program that you will enjoy as well as be effective.
- Require your trainees to put down in writing their career goals, and review this document with them regularly. This could be a list of goals, one single goal, or a candid description of where they want to be in two or three years. Since you are not their boss, they should not be afraid of any repercussions if they tell you they really do not want to work for their present employer for more than a couple of years.
- Qualifications of Mentors:
- You must have a current architectural registration in any state.
- You must enjoy working with young people and helping them overcome obstacles.
- Age, either too much or too little, is no hindrance. All that is needed is enthusiasm for the job.
- You should have the time available to meet with your Aspiring Architect at least for one hour every four months.
- Ideally, you should not work for the same firm as your trainee.
Upon accepting a trainee to mentor, you may wish to call the trainee's employer to say that you will be mentoring one of their employees. Casually set their mind at ease regarding your non-disclosure of any confidential information that your trainee may relate to you regarding the firm's business. This is a serious concern for some firms, and you need to be aware of it.
You need to know that you do not take on any responsibility for the trainee's acts or failure to act in any legal context. In other words, you will not be blamed if the trainee screws up. Use it as a learning tool! However, your timely and well-reasoned advice may in fact help avert a disaster that would have otherwise occurred.
Don't pontificate. It's a downer.
You may find yourself in a situation where the trainee informs you that he or she is experiencing emotional problems at work or at home. It is all too common at that age. You may initially feel that these problems are profession-related, and want to be able to work them out with the trainee. You should, however, know your limits and accept the fact that you are ill-equipped to deal with such behaviors. Refer your trainee to a trusted counselor. Whatever you do, keep such private information under your hat.
Do not commit any ethical violations such as hiring your trainee away from his or her current job. How would this lack of principles impact the future actions of your Advisee?
Know the Illinois Architectural Act and Rules thoroughly. Get the latest copy from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation http://www.idfpr.com/ . As a practicing Architect, you should be familiar with these documents, anyway. If you need to know something about the AXP, most questions can be answered by reading the Architect Experience Program Guidelines, which is available on NCARB's web site. If you have a stumper, contact the Illinois state Architect Licensing Advisor, Frank Heitzman at (708) 848-8844.
Keep your commitments and appointments, and be punctual. After all, you are the role model.
If you do not enjoy being a Mentor and it becomes a burden, take a sabbatical. You can always join the program later if you want.
You will earn AIA/CES Learning Unit Credits for Mentoring through the AIA "self-directed" study program. AIA/Chicago is a registered provider of CEUs with the National AIA, and will approve your program as a Mentor in the Chicago AIA. Therefore, time spent in researching information to assist trainees in meeting their professional goals is considered "learning" time and will be credited on a Quality Level 1 (1 hour research = 1 hour credit) basis.