What is mentoring?

Mentoring has been around for a long time and there’s lots of evidence available about the personal and professional benefits people have gained as a result of mentoring. But, if you look up mentoring, you’ll see that the term is used differently in different contexts – there’s no universally accepted definition.

Our Definition of Mentoring

From the literature and information we’ve gathered, we’ve come up with a working – or practical – definition of mentoring:

Mentoring is a voluntary professional relationship whose primary purpose is professional development. Mentees look to the mentor – an experienced, knowledgeable, trusted professional – as an advisor who can help them develop personal skills or competencies that will help them achieve personal and career goals.

If that definition sounds a bit indefinite, that’s intentional. Remember, the nature of mentoring depends on a number of individual factors, like:
• the ground rules the mentor and mentee agree on,
• the background and experience of the mentor and mentee, and
• the personalities of the mentor and mentee.


The term mentoring has ancient origins. In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who tutored and looked after Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, while Odysseus fought in the Trojan War.