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Adapted from Shea, G.F. - "Making the Most of Being Mentored"


  • Mentoring: A caring, sharing and helping relationship where one person invests time, know-how and effort into enhancing another person's growth, knowledge, and skills. Mentoring is NOT a training course or social chit-chat.
  • Mentor: One who offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or wisdom that is helpful to another person in a relationship that goes beyond doing one's duty or fulfilling one's obligations.
  • Mentee: A recipient of a mentor's help, especially a person who seeks out such help and uses it appropriately for developmental purposes whenever needed.

Benefits of Being Mentored
Here are some reasons to get involved in a mentoring relationship:

  • Benefit from another person's vision, experience, and learning.
  • Gain insight into organizational culture and appropriate behaviors, attitudes, and protocols of work.
  • Continue personal learning, performance improvement, and talent development.
  • Get help focusing on career plans and career moves.
  • Experience a non-threatening climate to test one's ideas, skills, and viewpoints.
  • Share an adult-to-adult partnership, a model of equals.
  • Become energized by achievement, mastery, and personal growth.
  • Grow in personal power and ability.

What Mentors Can Offer
Mentors possess strengths and abilities that can be offered to the mentee, and these may include:

  • Job- or career-related coaching that encourage the mentee to be his or her best.
  • Learning from others' experiences.
  • Access to a network of professionals/leaders.
  • Knowledge of emerging trends or developments within the industry.
  • Assistance in developing personal goals and plans.

Attracting a Mentor's Help
Before you start the process of searching for a mentor or asking someone to be your mentor, be sure to consider the following:

  • Know explicitly what you need or want from the relationship and have well-defined objectives.
  • Identify problems you believe might cause you to fail to meet your objectives.
  • Have a clear statement of what you believe a mentor could do to help you.
  • Ask for no special favors above and beyond the limits of the relationship.
  • Develop a plan for reaching your objectives.
  • Build a high level of comfort between you and your mentor (if you already have one in mind).
  • Be purposeful and pleasant.
  • Have interesting or challenging needs.

Six Useful Mentee Skills

  1. Ask productive questions.
  2. Develop key listening skills.
  3. Use trust-building behaviors.
  4. Overcome the "awe" factor.
  5. Resolve differences.
  6. Internalize your mentor's input.

Making the Most of the Relationship
Increasing awareness of the following aspects may assist in creating a more beneficial and productive mentoring relationship.
Mentees can help by:

  • Being willing and able to share their needs with their mentor.
  • Articulating their needs clearly.
  • Feeling comfortable with their mentor.
  • Being willing to trust and open up.
  • Choosing to develop and change themselves.
Mentors can help by:
  • Having a vast network of knowledgeable and experienced contacts.
  • Listening and providing feedback to the mentee.
  • Avoiding trying to solve problems, giving advice, or criticizing.

Getting Started in the Relationship
To ensure your relationship starts on a good note, consider these four steps:

  1. Communicate to your mentor what you hope to get from the relationship.
  2. Ask your mentor what he or she thinks are his or her strengths, and explore similarities between the mentor's strengths and your needs or wants.
  3. If you do not have any pressing needs to express or discuss, relax and enjoy the experience. Learn all you can, and look for opportunities to use what your mentor offers.
  4. If you find the relationship productive, you may want to continue it after your agreed upon time.
Key questions to ask:
  • How often will we meet?
  • How much time will we spend?
  • Where will we meet?
  • When will we meet? Over lunch, during work, outside of work?
  • Preferred day, hour, location, etc.?
  • How will we handle cancelling or rescheduling meetings?
  • What will be our main way of communicating (phone, e-mail, in person)?

Points to Remember

  1. Mentoring tends to be most productive when it operates as an adult-to-adult partnership, in which both mentor and mentee feel more like colleagues than like teacher and student.
  2. The partnership is voluntary on both sides. To be effective, both partners must be committed to it and willing to do their part.
  3. Mentees have the responsibility to manage their own development and career. It is important to study and practice the skills that will foster a good mentoring relationship.
  4. Being mentored is neither a training program nor an entitlement. Mentoring is the act of going above and beyond the ordinary to produce powerful, positive change in another person.
  5. Either party is entitled to terminate the relationship at any time, with or without giving a reason.
  6. When effective partnerships have resulted in achieving the intended goals, gratitude and celebration are in order!
REMEMBER: Mentors Help - Mentees Do!

How to End the Relationship
Once the mentee feels his or her objectives are met, a celebration is in order! Mentees will benefit from reviewing the successes of the relationship and comparing what they know now to what they knew when they first started. It is critical that the mentee express appreciation for the mentor's time and assistance and for all they have learned as a result.

The mentoring relationship can be modified or terminated at any time, for any reason, or even for no reason. There is no need to place blame in order to end the partnership. However, it is important that the person terminating the relationship communicate this desire openly to the other party and never simply "blow off" a meeting or commitment to the other person.

Additional Resources:

  • Making the Most of Being Mentored, by G. Shea
  • Search the Career Services database (over 150 professionals) by logging into Career Buffs and clicking on the "Contact a Professional" tab. Once you find a professional you would like to connect with, please schedule an appointment with a career counselor at 303-492-6541 to learn about informational interviewing and receive the professional’s contact information. If you do not find a professional of interest in this database, please schedule an appointment and we can brainstorm ways to find other professionals.
  • For Engineering, Science, and Math Students Only: MentorNet is a nonprofit e-mentoring network that provides highly motivated protégés from many of the world's top colleges and universities with positive, one-on-one, email-based mentoring relationships with mentors from industry and academia.

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