Information for Mentees

You may want to find yourself an individual mentor. This could be someone from within your division or faculty or even further afield, depending on what you want to discuss or work on.

Here are some things to consider when approaching a potential mentor and establishing a relationship:


1. Understand why you want a mentor

Before you contact a potential mentor it is important to establish what you want to get out of the relationship by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Why do you think you need a mentor?
  2. What is it that you want to work on?
  3. What areas do you want to develop?
  4. What are you looking to achieve?
  5. How will a mentor help?

A potential mentor will expect you to have thought through what you are looking for in the learning relationship and to have done some initial thinking about how the mentor might help.

2. Know your goals

As a mentee, you need to be in the driving seat of your mentoring relationship, making sure you make all the important choices. To have that control, you need to start with a clear understanding of your goals for the relationship, such as gaining more experience in a certain area or learning a particular technique. You need to be able to articulate what you would like to achieve and where you would like to go over a considered period of time.

Once you've articulated your goals clearly, your mentor will be better able to guide you on possible steps and opportunities.

2. Choose the best mentor to meet your goals.

How do you know who to ask to act as your mentor? Once you know your goals, look around for experienced individuals who can help you meet some of those objectives, who are good listeners, and who are generous with their time.

Questions to ask yourself and things to think about when trying to identify a mentor:

  1. What key characteristics are you looking for?
  2. How important is it that they have specific knowledge or experience?
  3. Do you know anyone who is strong in the areas you are looking to develop?
  4. Do they need to understand the details of your role?
  5. Is there anyone in your current network that may be suitable?
  6. Is there anyone that you have come across who you particularly respect?
  7. Do you know someone who has a reputation for successfully developing others?
  8. Will the individual you are thinking of challenge you?
  9. How geographically close do you need to be? (occasional face-to-face meetings interspersed with skype, telephone and email can be very effective)
  10. Do they seem like they’d have the time to support you right now?

3. Set the ground rules

Perhaps you and your mentor have worked together before, but whether you have or not it's important to understand the assumptions about working together in this context each of you brings to the relationship. You and your mentor should have a frank discussion of expectations: Start with a discussion of how frequently you will meet in person and communicate via phone or e-mail and set up a means of contact in case of an urgent issue. Be sure to keep this discussion is two-way, both mentee and mentor listening attentively and seeking to understand each other's unique perspective.

Addressing these issues at the beginning of a mentoring relationship helps avoid difficulties that can arise later on, when one party thinks that the other party isn't living up to his or her end of the bargain.

4. Learn to successfully accept feedback.

The good news in a mentoring relationship is that you will receive feedback and insight from a knowledgeable and supportive colleague. Many times this feedback will confirm that you are on the right track but sometimes the feedback will be challenging and difficult to hear. You need to be receptive to both kinds, positive and negative, and learn to accept feedback that's intended to improve your performance.

The key is to learn to listen carefully to this constructive feedback, make adjustments, and then seek more feedback so that you can continue to improve yourself. Also, pay attention to how your mentors offer constructive criticism and notice how you react to it. Good feedback takes practice to deliver and to be heard.

5. Recognise that your career and development is your responsibility.

You've set out your goals, found the ideal mentor, launched a relationship, and even learned how to take full advantage of feedback from your mentor. But remember that you own the mentoring relationship. Remember that the best mentors are there to challenge you by asking great questions but they are not there to give you solutions.

6. Practice good communication.

Learning to communicate effectively is a lifelong challenge. Mentoring relationships thrive on good communication, remember that your mentor cannot read your mind.

Take time to keep your mentor up to date on how things are going (or not going), provide feedback on how well a strategy or approach you tried worked (or failed), and try not to over interpret a comment from your mentor, who is probably just as busy as you are. Stick to the facts and make sure you keep in touch.

7. Consider a periodic mentor check-up.

Mentoring relationships can benefit from a regular evaluation. As a mentee, you should evaluate whether this relationship is still helping you. If you look forward to meeting with your mentor and can't wait to share where you are with your goals, all is going well. But even when all is going well, you might need to make a change to meet your changing needs, particularly if your work crosses department or school boundaries.

8. What if you make the wrong choice?

Mentees and mentors should as a guide review the relationship after two meetings and then every few meetings thereafter. This gives you an opportunity to consider someone new if the relationship doesn’t work out. Move on with care if your mentoring check-up reveals that you need a different mentor to meet your needs. Assigning blame or fault to your mentor is rarely a good professional strategy.

If a mentoring relationship has gone sour, perhaps because of a lack of trust, a lack of follow-up or commitment, or poor communication, don't become the victim. Consider focusing your energy and efforts by carefully reviewing your goals, and finding a new, more appropriate mentor to meet those goals, and being clear on goals and expectations with your new mentor. 

Mentees info