The mentor and mentee

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Since mentoring revolves around a mentor and mentee, on this page we explore these two roles.

What is a mentor?

Insurance-educationA mentor is a person who has professional and life experience and who voluntarily agrees to help a mentee develop skills, competencies, or goals. Put another way, a mentor is an advisor and role model who is willing to invest in the mentee’s personal growth and professional development.

Mentors are more than role models

Some folks think that mentor is really just another word for role model. Mentors certainly are expected to be a role model for mentees in a variety of areas, such as relating to peers, work-life balance, and ethics, but merely being a role model does not make you a mentor. Being a mentor means interacting with a mentee and providing support, advice, and feedback to the mentee – in other words, it requires involvement with the mentee.

What makes a good mentor?

• A desire to help others succeed
• A willingness to pass along information
• A willingness to give and receive feedback
• A desire to work with others
• A desire to engage with others on an interpersonal level
• A desire to learn
• A motivation to mentor
• Good listening and communication skills
• Good questioning skills
• Good common sense
• Good people management and leadership skills
• Knowledge of the industry, organization, or field in which the mentee works or aspires to work in
• Self-confidence and self-awareness
• Strong ethics
• Lack of prejudice
• Openness, honesty and trustworthiness
• Patience
• Empathy

What is a mentee?

Insurance Education_02A mentee is someone who has identified a specific personal or professional goal and who believes that the guidance and help of a mentor – and being held accountable to the mentor – can help them achieve their goal.

The mentee's potential

Before agreeing to enter into a mentoring relationship, a mentor must believe the prospective mentee possesses qualities that will increase the likelihood that the mentee will benefit from the relationship.

Qualities to look for in mentees

• A willingness to learn about themselves
• A willingness to learn from others’ experience
• Commitment to their personal and professional growth
• Strong interpersonal skills
• Good listening skills
• An easy ability to learn
• An open mind and a willingness to try new things
• An ability to accept feedback and learn from it
• Patience and ability to take a long-term view
• Good communication skills
• Flexibility
• Respect for other people's time and effort
• Realistic expectations
• A strong work ethic
• A strong initiative
• A clear commitment to being mentored
• A willingness to take responsibility for their career
• Openness, honesty and trustworthiness


Some mentoring programs use the word protégé instead of mentee. (Protégé is also often used by behavioural scientists writing on the topic.) We decided to stick to the term mentee for a couple of reasons:
• mentee is more straightforward (the purest definition of it is simply someone who is being mentored), and
• to some people, the word protégé (which comes from the French protéger, meaning to protect) implies favouritism, which is not what mentoring is about.

But, if you’re more comfortable with the word protégé than mentee, by all means, feel free to use that term instead.