Managing the relationship

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As a mentee you must take ownership of the relationship, starting with the very first meeting. When you think about it, it makes sense to own the relationship because it’s primarily about your personal growth.

Here are some fundamental things you can do to help make sure the relationship gets off to a good start and to help keep it on track down the road:

Build rapport

The first meeting is all about building rapport and getting acquainted with each other. If you’ve done your homework, chances are you know a fair bit about your mentor and his or her experience, but there is more to a person than his or her resume. Learn a bit about your mentor's personal life, interests, hobbies, and so on. It’s also important to pay attention to things like your mentor's communication style, manner, sense of humour and level of seriousness, and so on.


Establish ground rules

It’s important to set some ground rules, things like:

• Agreeing on where or how you’ll meet (in person, by phone, electronically, or a combination).

• Agreeing on how often you’ll meet and how long the meetings will generally last.

• Learning about each other’s communication style – for example, does the mentor like all the details or just an overview with relevant facts or issues highlighted? Is the mentor comfortable with receiving information verbally, or do they like to have a written summary in advance?

• Agreeing on methods of giving/getting feedback – for example, do you prefer to receive feedback very directly, or somewhat softened, or with humour? How does your mentor like to receive feedback?

Agree on goals and discuss expectations

It’s important that you agree on the goals you have for the mentorship and a general timeframe for achieving those goals. Humans have expectations around all sorts of things – sometimes a person’s expectations are clear and easy to describe and sometimes they don’t even realize they have them. Before entering a mentoring relationship both parties should discuss their expectations about the relationship. The more closely your expectations are aligned, the more likely it is that you’ll both find the relationship fulfilling.


How often you and your mentor meet will depend on a number of things – including your respective schedules, the method of meeting (it can be more difficult to set up in person meetings than meetings via Skype, for example), and personal preferences. Though the research is inconclusive about whether more frequent meetings lead to better mentoring experiences, it does shown that mentees report more satisfaction from the relationship if they establish a schedule that calls for them to meet regularly.

So – however often you and your mentor agree to meet – stick to the plan.