Documents for Mentees
The Mentee Role
As a mentee, your goals should guide the course of your relationship with your mentor. The skills you work to develop, the support you need, the style of relationship you have; all are driven by your goals. The goals sheet provided will help you and your mentor create SMART goals for your relationship.
: The most important step in the mentor-mentee relationship is setting expectations. The expectations you set with your mentor will guide how your mentoring will be delivered. It is important to remember that these expectations are a two-way street. You cannot expect more from a mentor than they agree to give, and vice versa.
It is important not to forget that mentors are people too. They are not all knowing, especially when it comes to knowing how you need to be mentored. If you need more hands-on support, or if you only want direct answers for the specific questions you ask; if you want the relationship to include more personal/emotional components, or if you want to keep it purely professional; if you want more contact or less contact between you and your mentor; all of these are part of setting expectations and boundaries for your mentor-mentee relationship. The expectations sheet provided will help you and your mentor outline the expectations and boundaries that both of you are comfortable with, while still fulfilling what is needed to help you achieve your goals.
As a mentee, you will need to not only set goals and expectations, but also guide the tone of your relationship. Along with setting an explicit expectation, your tone can also guide the familiarity versus formality of your relationship with your mentor. Mentees should adopt a growth mindset and display an attitude of willingness to learn, receptivity to advice, and flexibility. However, this does not mean that the mentee can only ever be on the receiving end of the relationship. Mentees can have a lot to offer to their mentor, and you should not be afraid to share your thoughts and experience.
Mentee DOs and DON’Ts
The key DOs and DON’Ts for mentees are displayed in a separate graphic handout for you to use as a quick reminder. Those items are explained in detail below:
- Establish goals: Setting concrete goals will ensure you and your mentor have something to work toward. A handout is provided to help you with this process
- Discuss expectations: It’s important to establish what you are looking for from a mentor right off the bat. Your mentor can’t read your mind, so setting out the kind of expectations you have for the relationship is vital to its success.
- Listen: Engage in active listening (handout provided) and try to really absorb what your mentor tells you. Try to remember that no mentor’s experience will be exactly like your own experience, but the lessons they have learned can still be relevant to you all the same. You don’t have to do everything your mentor recommends you do, but you should at least be open to the things they suggest and the ideas they bring up.
- Ask questions: Part of active listening involves asking questions. Not only will you learn something by asking a question, it also demonstrates to your mentor that you are curious, eager to learn, and value their opinions and experiences.
- Be proactive: Take the initiative to contact your mentor. Mentors are busy people, so don’t take it personally if they don’t reach out. Especially at the beginning of the relationship the onus will be on you to connect with them and work with their schedule. That being said, don’t be too pushy. Recognize that your mentor has other obligations, just like you.
- Be honest: It is important to be upfront with your mentor. If you don’t share that things you are struggling with in your life or career they won’t be able to help you navigate those things. Additionally, honest communication becomes even more important if you feel things are not going well in your mentor-mentee relationship. You can refer back to the expectations you set of one another and talk openly about how you feel those are not being fulfilled, if such a need arises. If you are not honest your mentor will have no way of knowing you are unhappy and cannot work to change.
- Be reliable: If you set up a time to connect with your mentor make sure you are on time. Stick to your commitments with your mentor. Showing up late, blowing off check-ins, or not responding to them are great ways to broadcast that you don’t value their time or the relationship, even if that is not your intention.
- Take advantage: Your mentor wants to help you, but make sure you don’t take advantage of their kindness. It’s fine to ask them to connect you with people who can help you achieve your goals and help you network, but it is inappropriate to ask your mentor for a job. They should serve as your guide, not as your employer.
- Ignore context: Your mentor has had a different life than you. Their experiences may be different from yours for various reasons, such as race, gender, age, geographic location, etc. It is important to remember this when you listen to their stories and advice. Also, do not forget that your mentor has responsibilities outside your relationship, and those responsibilities may occasionally conflict with your mentor-mentee relationship. Patience, empathy, and understanding are important tools in these times.
- Confuse mentorship with friendship: You and your mentor can certainly be close, but try to avoid crossing the line into friendship. Your mentor inherently holds a position of power in the relationship, and this dynamic can make friendships potentially confusing or inappropriate. If you want a more casual, friendly relationship style with your mentor, that’s totally fine, just be sure to establish that when you set your expectations so that there is no confusion over the boundaries of your relationship with your mentor.
- Expect too much: Similar to taking advantage, you cannot expect that your mentor will swoop in and change your life. Their role is to help guide you, support you, and aid you in achieving your goals, not to accomplish them for you. You mentor is not your therapist and they cannot help you through everything. Try not to bombard them with messages or overwhelm them with requests.
- Gossip: No trust can be built within the mentor-mentee relationship if there is a risk of one party in the relationship sharing private details with others outside the relationship. Respect your mentor’s privacy and maintain ethical behavior.
- Lose yourself: Your mentor should serve as your guide on the path to achieving your goals. However, they may attempt to direct you on where your path should lead, or try to change your mind about your goals. While being challenged in this way can sometimes help you grow and strengthen your convictions, other times it can feel like you are being steamrolled. You are entitled to speak up when you feel your mentor is trying to direct you a certain way or if you think their advice is off-base.