How to be a good mentee – things you should know

by | Sep 4, 2017

Clearing up the confusion about being a good mentee

So you've got a mentor and are taking positive steps forward - now make sure you're a good mentee and get the most out of it!

I have personally mentored and have also supervised a large number of mentoring programmes and pairings. There is no doubt that some people are easier to mentor than others. Because having a mentor plays a vital part in career management and success, it's important to attract and have the support of great mentors.  That means you have to be a good mentee.  Very often it is believed that it's all about the mentor. It isn't. In all the mentor/mentee matching I have been involved in, most problems have been because of a gap in the expectations or actions of the mentee.

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Here are some tips on how to be a good mentee

good mentee

Be clear about your outcomes

Many mentees are not really clear about why they should have a mentor. They are fashionable at the moment and programmes come in for criticism because they don't seem to result in women achieving a higher number of senior roles. But a good mentee will have clear ideas why she wants a specific person to be her mentor.  You shouldn't have one for the sake of it, there should be specific goals. It could be for knowledge transfer, to tap into a specific experience or situational advice. Mentors are generally more senior and established in their roles. This means their time is at a premium. So if your organisation doesn't have a formal mentoring programme allocating specific time, creating an agenda for every meeting with stated objectives is expected. Usually an organised mentee is a good mentee.

Read: Why do we say women are over mentored?

Have multiple mentors

It's always a good idea to have multiple mentees. Look for people inside and outside your company and also think about peer mentoring. Getting advice from peers can be invaluable.  One mentor can' rarely be all things to you at the same time. Mentors frequently complain that all mentees want is access to their network. A mentor will usually be happy to share and make network introductions, but a good mentee will prove herself worthy first.

If you have approached a mentor for a specific reason and she shares a possible solution make sure you take action.  If you have concerns about the idea, discuss it with her and propose alternatives or compromises. A good mentee doesn't expect her mentor to sit there while she vents. Nor is it her role to follow through with you. It is your responsibility to give her feedback.

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Take responsiblity for the admin

Your mentor will be very busy, so taking charge of the admin is the hallmark of a good mentee. Make sure you have agreed the communication protocols and number and length of sessions. I once supervised a mentoring relationship where the mentee decided to communicate via Skype chat and the mentor missed the messages. There are so many platforms now - ask her for her preference.  Respect her time, be punctual and don't over run. Don't interrupt her with impromptu requests unless it is a real emergency.

Read: Mentoring programmes support employee engagement

Give as well as receive

Mentors say that they learn as much from their mentees as they give. Make sure your network knows what a great mentor she is - very often women assume mentoring responsibilities in addition to their normal jobs with very little recognition. It's a great leadership skill and should be publicised. Obviously make sure you thank her at the end of the agreed time and stay in touch.

Mentoring is not Coaching

Many mentees have confused expectations about the process. It is not coaching. The mentor is not accountable for the mentee's success, will have no preparation and is under no obligation to monitor any action points unless expressly agreed. She is there to offer advice based on her own experience.

Having a mentor is a gift. Take advantage of it and do your best to be a good mentee. The best!

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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she joins the dots between organisations, individuals, opportunity and success.
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