Being a Great Mentee: How to Make the Most of Your Mentoring Relationships

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A little while ago I write a blog post on the 7 Characteristics of Highly Effective Mentors. But what about the mentees? They have an important role to play in making sure the mentoring relationship is effective.

At the start of the year, many people will be setting their development goals and identifying mentoring as a valuable tool for working towards them. So, in today’s blog post I thought I’d look at what makes someone a great mentee.

The key to a good mentoring relationship is an open and reciprocal partnership between mentor and mentee. For mentees, success is not just having a mentor tell you or show you what to do. It’s a two-way relationship.

Here are 11 ways you can be a great mentee and make the most of your mentoring relationship.

1. You understand and appreciate the value of their time.

One important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be committed for the mentor/mentee relationship to be successful. So, if you ask someone to meet with you, be respectful by making sure you arrive on time. If something unexpected happens and you are not able to keep your appointment, make sure to contact them as soon as possible to reschedule. Being a great mentee means always being respectful of others’ time.

2. You take responsibility for your learning.

As your mentor is providing you with guidance, it is up to you what you do with that guidance. So, you will need to take responsibility in this relationship to take action. If you have chosen someone to become your mentor, then it shows you have put trust in that person to guide you. So, govern yourself accordingly and do your part as a mentee.

3. You’re clear about what you’re looking for from a mentor.

People seek out mentors for different reasons. The more specifically you can articulate your expectations and objectives, the more likely you are to receive the guidance you’d like. If the mentoring is successful for both you and the mentor, how will you know?  What will be different as a result?  What will be the signs that the relationship has been effective?

4. You make a positive start.

The initial meeting is crucial.  Use it to get to know each other and to agree how the mentor mentee relationship will work.  Will you meet via Zoom or MS Teams or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone?  What boundaries do you want to agree for the relationship?  Think about any ground rules you want to establish.

5. You develop the relationship by showing respect and building trust.

Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in his/her life – work, family, travel, interests etc.  Make every effort to build trust in the relationship.  For example, show up for meetings on time, follow up on any introductions made by your mentor etc

6. You prepare well for your meetings with your mentor. 

Be clear on the issue or topic you want to discuss and be ready to share with your mentor your own thoughts on how to approach it.  Remember, your mentor is there to help you think things through and share their knowledge and experience to give you other ideas to consider.  They are not there to do the thinking and make the decisions for you.

7. You can accept input, advice and — sometimes — criticism.

You’ve turned to a mentor because they have knowledge or experience that you don’t have. But, you may not like what you hear all the time. Be ready to receive their feedback, and then decide whether you want to take it.

If you disagree with them, examine your attitude. Remember, their advice most likely comes from a positive impulse: their desire to help you grow. Ask yourself, why do I not agree? Why does this make me feel uncomfortable? Is this pushing me past my boundaries?” Your reluctance may have more to do with a fear of leaving your comfort zone or an unwillingness to change than the quality of their instructions. It’s also possible that their suggestions may not fit your larger goal, so if this is the case, let them know.

If you decide not to follow their guidance, it’s still important to express your gratitude. After all, they’ve put time and thought into what they told you.

Be your best self. In person or over email or text, say a simple “thank you” and briefly and politely explain your decision. As in any healthy partnership, communication is critical. Your feedback will enable your mentor to learn how they can best coach you. With the best intentions, mentors might give you advice that works for them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you.

8. You keep your discussions confidential.

You keep the content of your discussions private. Your mentor trusts your discretion and judgement. You are confident that you can be open and honest with them.

9. You open yourself to new ideas.

Your mentor won’t give you advice or tell you what to do but they will share their ideas and experiences.  To get the most from this relationship you should approach the situation with a fresh and open mind, welcoming in as many new ideas as possible.

10. You express your gratitude.

Remember your mentor is doing this voluntarily. They will be giving you the benefit of their knowledge, experience and resources.  Take the time to show them how grateful you are for their time. Expressing your gratitude will go a long way.

11. You give back.

Provide your mentor with an insight into what goes on in your role, your level, your speciality and your organisation so they too can learn from your experience.

Hopefully, your mentor will pass on information that he or she thinks might be useful to your development.  Return the favour by e-mailing over any news stories that they might be interested in or information that they might find valuable.

What other suggestions do you have on being a great mentee? What steps have you taken to make the most of mentoring? Interested in training mentees within your organisation to make the most of their mentoring relationships? Check out our Making the Most of Mentoring Programme

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