At the Beginning of a Mentoring Relationship

Like every relationship, those involved in mentoring will find themselves going through various stages as they work together. It is useful to be aware of this dynamic so as to better understand what is happening in your relationship.

Beginning the Relationshipmentoring relationship

In some ways, this is the most critical stage because both parties define their relationship and set the ground rules. If this is done successfully, the relationship will develop well. If not done successfully, it will lead to frustration, false starts and both partners may find that the mentoring relationship never really materialized.

It is also an awkward time for the partners unless you have both known each other prior to engaging in the mentoring experience. Since this may be the first time you actually work together, you both may feel a little tentative at first until you get to know each other better and build a level of comfort and trust. Even if you have known each other, however, you still need to begin at this stage as this relationship will be different from the one you have now.


What to expect when beginning a mentoring relationship

You begin to learn about each other in more personal and detailed ways.

  • You define what your expectations are of each other.
  • You start establishing a climate of trust and confidentiality.
  • You identify the learning goals that you want to accomplish through this relationship.
  • You define the parameters and boundaries of your relationship. For example, is office politics a taboo subject?

The Mentor

Wants to be of assistance and is seeking guidance from the mentoree on these areas.

  • Wants to know what the mentoree’s expectations are, if they are realistic and whether or not s/he can fulfill them.
  • Has concerns about the investment of time and resources s/he will have to devote and whether s/he can meet the challenge.
  • Has concerns about how to provide feedback in a way that will be useful to and accepted by the mentoree.

The Mentoree

Wants to appear competent and someone worthy of the valuable time and energy to be invested by the mentor.

  • Is concerned about being vulnerable, i.e., will this be a safe environment? Can I trust this person?
  • Wants to know what the mentor’s expectations are of him/her?
  • Wonders if the mentor will allow the mentoree to be independent by allowing the mentoree to apply what is offered as s/he thinks best.


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Topics: Mentors & Mentorees, Mentoring Program Manager