The importance of the relationship between mentee and mentor

Updated 22 March 2023

A mentor helps a mentee learn and achieve success in their career. The mentee usually drives the relationship and informs their mentor what their objectives are while the mentor coaches the mentee and guides them to success in the industry. Knowing how this relationship works can help you in your role as either mentor or mentee. In this article, we look at the mentor–mentee relationship, the responsibilities of both and how to maintain a mentoring relationship.

Related: How to find a mentor: a useful step-by-step guide

The mentee and mentor relationship

The relationship between mentee and mentor is both professional and interpersonal. The aim of this partnership is for the mentor to offer guidance, advice and new skills the mentee can apply in their field. Having a mentor is often advantageous as it can help minimise the learning curve for the mentee when they start. A mentor is not a traditional teacher. Instead, they act as a guide, allowing the mentee to realise their potential. Because a mentor has years of practical experience within a field, they can offer unique insights and knowledge often overlooked in traditional learning contexts.

Each mentor-mentee relationship is unique, as each person has their own goals, personality and perspectives. For example, a mentee starting work in a particular industry may have unrealistic beliefs, in which case the mentor can show them a more practical approach to their workplace. The key role of the mentor is to listen to the needs of the mentee and give them the tools to solve problems in their own time. The mentee's role is to be willing to learn and involve themselves as much as possible in the experience while taking responsibility for working out issues for themselves.

Main responsibilities of a mentor

To become a mentor, it's important that you have practical experience within a specific field so that you can help your mentee achieve their goals and thrive in your industry. Here are some of the responsibilities you have as a mentor:

  • Be a good role model: You may have achieved great things in your field, making you someone the mentee can admire. You might also demonstrate characteristics that make you liked and respected such as reinforcing your words with effective actions.

  • Help mentees reach goals: The mentee is likely to have certain goals before they approach you. It's common for the mentee and mentor to set a time frame for achieving these, so it's essential that, as a mentor, you're goal-driven.

  • Use coaching techniques: As a mentor, your main role is to guide rather than teach, but it's important that you know when also to use coaching techniques to encourage your mentee to uncover solutions.

  • Push the mentee: Most mentees face one or more challenges during the learning process. A good mentor can encourage them to consider multiple factors and ultimately to trust their own judgement.

  • Be attentive: As this relationship is likely to be a long process, it's important that you're available for the mentee when they need you. It's your responsibility to follow up with your mentee and monitor their progress.

Main responsibilities of a mentee

Although the mentor is in a position of authority and guides the mentee, the relationship requires effort from both sides. When you work with a mentor, you have an equal amount of responsibility for your learning. Therefore, it's important to be active, commit to the specific tasks set by your mentor and follow a certain framework towards success. Below are some of the main roles and responsibilities you have as a mentee:

  • Be open-minded: It's important to remember that, as a mentee, you're engaging in a learning experience. It's vital that you remain open to any help and guidance your mentor may offer you.

  • Specify goals: The aim is to gain certain skills and achievements by the end of the mentorship. Discussing these with your mentor at the start of the process can help you achieve them.

  • Be an active listener: When your mentor is giving you advice, make a habit of taking notes and actively engaging with the information. If you're in a classroom setting, remain attentive throughout and save questions for the end.

  • Take action: It's important that you have the drive to apply the principles your mentor teaches you through actions. In this way, you can achieve your goals more quickly and gain valuable learning experiences.

  • Take feedback constructively: Your mentor is likely to give you some level of feedback. When they do, it's important not to take it personally, as they're providing this to help you evaluate and improve your performance.

  • Move on when the process is over: Like all learning experiences, a mentorship is a temporary process and usually ends when either you or the mentor feel you're ready to move on. It's important to develop a sense of independence during and after the process.

Related: How to say thank you to a mentor (with template and example)

The GROW model

The GROW model is a four-step framework that helps mentors structure their sessions and ensures that they allow the mentee to solve problems and work towards their goals. The four steps are; goal, reality, options/obstacles, intention/way forward. First, the mentee specifies their goals, discusses the reality of achieving them, identifies possible options and obstacles that may occur and finds a way to work towards them. The mentee typically does most of the speaking at this stage, and by the end, they usually have a good understanding of their goals and how to approach them.

Related: 10 change management models to use in the workplace

Benefits of the mentor–mentee relationship

Mentoring is a distinctive experience for both parties, regardless of their industry. Both the mentee and mentor can learn from the experience, as it promotes the transfer of skills and knowledge between the two. The mentee typically gains valuable insight into an industry while the mentor revisits skill sets, potentially encouraging them to look at their approach and techniques in a different way. The mentor also has the opportunity to develop their leadership skills which may lead to career advancement. Fostering these relationships allows those new to an industry to learn from those with a proven track record.

Related: How to start a mentoring programme in 8 steps (plus tips)

Stages of a mentor–mentee relationship

A successful mentoring relationship requires mutual respect, exchanges between both people, active listening and the mentee feeling that their mentor is there to help them. In contrast, a lack of commitment, conflicts of interest and a mentor inadequately qualified for coaching people in their role can derail the mentoring relationship. A mentoring relationship comprises three main stages:

  1. Initiation stage: Here, the mentee and mentor meet for the first time. They typically discuss the mentee's goals and the mentor ultimately decides if they want to commit to the process.

  2. Cultivation stage: The focus in this stage is on learning and growth. This may involve, for example, giving advice and exposing the mentee to more of the industry.

  3. Separation stage: The end of the mentorship assumes that the mentee has enough knowledge and confidence to work on their own. If only one party decides to end the mentorship, it's usually problematic and not a natural conclusion to the relationship.

Building and maintaining a successful mentor–mentee relationship

In building a successful mentee–mentor relationship, both parties learn to respect and understand the other. It's also important that the mentee is clear on their goals and finds a mentor who can help them achieve them. Below are some tips for finding a mentor and building a relationship with them:

  • Do your research: In finding the right mentor, it's important to do some background research on their achievements and experience. You may also consider factors such as their values and personal qualities and if these align with your own.

  • Clearly define goals: As a mentee, having clear goals allows you to commit to them more readily, and the mentor can help you achieve them more easily. Setting deadlines is a great way to test the commitment and organisation of both mentor and mentee.

  • Clear and honest communication: Agreeing on a communication medium, such as a messaging app, ensures that you both reply on time. It's also important to respect differences in your opinions and values.

  • Be flexible: As a mentor, you may have several mentees, all with distinct personalities and working styles. Learning to adapt to these so that your mentees can grow is essential for allowing them to thrive.

  • Celebrate victories: As a mentee, you're likely to reach a number of milestones in your progress and it's important to recognise them. Mentees often look to their mentors for approval, so as a mentor, be sure to give praise when it's due.


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