by Helen Moulsley

The good mentee

If, as a mentee, you want to get the greatest possible benefit from a mentoring relationship, there are some things you must do (in addition to be prepared to take feedback).

Own the relationship

First and foremost of these is to own the mentoring relationship. This is not to say that your mentor is not interested – after all, they are giving their time and sharing their valuable experience; it is just that they have other priorities and pressures.

Owning your own career is an important principle of career development. No one has more interest or more to gain from the progression of your career than you.

Be proactive

You need to be proactive. This means taking the initiative and setting the pace – with the agreement of the mentor.

For example, your mentor may not even be aware if time is elapsing and the mentoring meetings are not happening; they will undoubtedly have other things to preoccupy them.

It is in any case down to you to take the initiative, to determine the direction and to drive through on the activity. Look at it as a project you are managing: as with any project, you should set milestones and make sure that they are achieved. In this case, however, the project is ‘project you’. If you do this, you will no doubt impress and gain a reputation for ownership and delivery.

Manage the agenda

You, the mentee, should be defining the agenda, not your mentor (nor anyone else, come to that). If you do not work out what it is you want to do, you are in effect handing it over to others to determine your direction and you may find upon arrival that you do not like where this has taken you. Your agenda may not have the same destination as the one that others would choose for you – do not wait to arrive before you find that out.

Set objectives

This is essential.

  • Set yourself some objectives to work on during the mentoring relationship.
  • Dialogue these with your mentor and obtain their agreement that these are what you will work on.
  • Write the objectives down and give your mentor a copy.
  • Review them regularly with your mentor.

Progress actions

Make the mentoring action-oriented, and always follow through on those actions which you agreed. It is reasonable to expect that your mentor will do the same, though you may wish, as a courtesy, to prompt them slightly in advance of each mentoring session.

Manage the relationship

Be systematic in managing the mentoring relationship.

  1. The first meeting
  2. The contract
  3. The ongoing relationship