If you’re about to embark on your first mentoring relationship, you might be unsure about your responsibilities in the relationship. Who should schedule the meetings? Who decides what will be on the agenda? How can I be a good mentor?
Similarly, if you’re a mentee who is new to mentoring relationships, you may not know exactly what your role is in the partnership. How can I best contribute to my mentee’s development? I don’t want to let them down, so what do I need to do to prepare?
While every mentoring relationship is different, there are some generally accepted roles and responsibilities of both the mentor and the mentee. However, although they are common, they aren’t universal; you should be explicit with your mentoring partner about expectations and responsibilities.
If you’re a mentee, here’s what you’re expected to do in the relationship:
Drive the Relationship
If you’re a young professional, you might be used to other people calling the shots at work: setting goals, priorities, timelines, etc. However, being a mentee isn’t like being an employee. A mentoring relationship is built around the mentee’s goals. That means, you’re ultimately the one who sets objectives for the relationship. Further, the mentee is the person who does the bulk of the scheduling and moving the relationship forward. The mentor isn’t able to guess what you need; therefore, you need to be upfront about what they need and when they need it.
Listen and Reflect
Sometimes, young professionals feel like they need to have an answer for everything. After all, having answers has likely been a big part of their career success thus far. However, in a mentoring relationship, you aren’t being tested, and you don’t have to know all the answers. A good mentor will ask some challenging questions, and it’s okay if you aren’t sure about the answers. Listen and reflect on what your mentor is sharing, and think about how their experiences and hard-won lessons learned relate to your current situation.
Follow Through on Agreements
There is nothing more frustrating for a mentor than trying to help a mentee that isn’t doing what they agreed to do. A mentee must follow through and be prepared for meetings with their mentor, and follow through on action items that may come as a result of mentorship meetings. For example, if a mentor and mentee talk about a specific issue the mentee is having, the mentee should have completed the next steps before the next meeting with their mentor. If a mentor suggests to a mentee that they should read an article, take a class, or meet with another individual, the mentee should follow through on these.
As a mentee, you will set yourself up for success by knowing what role you’re supposed to play in the mentoring relationship. To be fully prepared, seek out online mentee training before you meet with your mentor.
Also read: How to be a Great Virtual Mentor
If you’re a mentor, there are some key mentoring expectations that you need to fulfill in the relationship:
A good mentor should be available and accessible to the mentee. When a mentor has extremely limited availability for the mentee, it sends a message to the mentee that they aren’t a high priority. While you don’t have to be on call 24/7 for your mentee, it’s important to be there for your mentee during critical times. For example, if your mentee has an important presentation coming up, they might appreciate some additional support from you. Being available to listen to a practice presentation can make all the difference to a mentee.
Mentees need space to talk things out and self-reflect. It isn’t helpful to moralize, lecture, or preach, to your mentee. In fact, doing so can jeopardize the effectiveness of the mentoring relationship because the mentee may be more reticent to share their thoughts and dilemmas. Their values and goals aren’t the same as yours, so it’s best to meet them where they’re at rather than impose your own opinions on them.
Make sure your motivations for being a mentor are in the right place. A mentor shouldn’t be in the relationship for personal gain. Similarly, what the mentee shares within the mentoring relationship should be kept confidential.
If you’d like to dive deeper into any of these mentoring expectations, look for online mentor training to help you develop some of the mentoring skills you’ll need to be successful.
Beyond these typical mentoring expectations, you and your mentoring partner may have some expectations that are specific to your mentorship. For example, a mentoring pair might agree to attend conferences or other meetings together, or to allow the mentee to job shadow. These additional mentoring expectations can help support the mentee’s development. The key is to make these mentoring expectations explicit: talk about them, agree on them, and even put them in a written mentoring agreement. That way, mentoring expectations aren’t left unsaid—and unfulfilled.