An Intentional Approach to Mentorship Makes All the Difference

Black and white "You got this" sign on a table next to a laptop and iPhone

You’re a new transcriber.

It’s official. You’ve passed the TypeWell Skill Check, have completed 29 lessons of intensive transcribing instruction—some of them frustrating, all of them designed to prepare you for what comes next!

So, what does come next?

That’s the question many transcribers ask themselves as they face the transition from TypeWell training to real-time service provision. For many transcribers, the answer can be discouraging.

Intentional Approach to Mentorship. two white figurines holding two interlocked puzzle pieces that are yellow and blue

Being a good transcriber does not automatically mean that you will also be a good mentor.


As any experienced transcriber will tell you, the real-world service environment—whether it be the boardroom or the classroom—is a lot different than the self-contained training environment. Often, new transcribers find themselves thrown into assignments with little support from their employers—a sink-or-swim, trial-by-fire method of immersion that creates anxiety and burnout and allows for bad habits to develop.

In other cases, employers may claim to offer ongoing mentorship only to provide occasional observation and a teamer for especially difficult classes. This, of course, is not the same thing as running a structured mentorship curriculum with mentors who—themselves—undergo training on how to provide effective guidance, support, and coaching to new and inexperienced transcribers.

The result is that many transcribers feel unsupported, set adrift without a network of peers or colleagues with whom they can talk about their professional lives and grow professionally.

Intentional Approach to Mentorship. Woman sitting with her elbows on her laptop, cradling her face in her hands

“If only I were receiving high-quality mentorship, right now, I wouldn’t have to sit in this empty, sterile room, cradling my face in my hands and feeling forlorn.”


Last year, when we designed the Captioner Mentorship Program at West Virginia University, we put a lot of thought into the design of our curriculum. We knew we had an experienced staff—our two mentors have a combined twenty-seven years of experience as TypeWell transcribers—but being a good transcriber does not automatically mean that you will also be a good mentor.

To deliver a quality mentor program, one that would meet the needs of both new and experienced mentees alike, we would need to not only provide ample classroom experience but also a stepped approach that takes into consideration each mentee’s skill and confidence level, as well as their growth and their ability to reach certain benchmarks over the course of a semester.

To offer a complete experience, we would need to not only provide feedback on the technical aspects of transcribing, such as lagging and chunking, but also focus on the social element—dedicating time outside of class for mentees to talk with their mentors (and with each other) about the profession in general and the standards that govern ethical delivery of services.

Finally, we felt it was important to compensate mentees not only for their time in the classroom but for pre-class preparation and post-class editing, both of which are important responsibilities for our in-house staff of transcribers.

Intentional Approach to Mentorship. Woman typing on laptop at a desk with a smile on her face and a cup of coffee next to her

“This well-designed approach to mentorship is really making a difference in my confidence and skill. I am once again able to enjoy the simple things in life, such as coffee.”


Anyone with an opinion and enough time can claim to provide a mentorship experience, but we’ve always felt that it is important that data and feedback drive our curriculum design. One year out, we continue to adapt, shape, and improve our program based on what we’ve learned, and we remain more confident than ever in the value of an intentional and individualized approach to mentorship.

Table: WVU Captioner Mentorship Survey Entrance and Exit Survey Results

Survey results to measure the intentional approach to mentorship strategy implemented at West Virginia University.

For mentors, it is rewarding to observe mentees grow and develop over the course of a semester, especially when they reach a personal milestone—pushing to get through that challenging portion of class without assistance, finally having the discipline to lag during the professor’s opening remarks. However, the most meaningful indicator of success may just be that mentees continue to remain in touch with us, even after the mentorship experience is over.

We think that’s a pretty good answer to the question: What comes next?

Jason Kapcala
Jason Kapcala is Assistant Director of Captioning and Interpreting for West Virginia University’s Office of Accessibility Services and a lecturer in Leadership Studies.