What does a mentor do? (Work responsibilities plus tips)

Updated 1 March 2023

Mentors guide, advise and support their mentees through their careers. These individuals use their experience, skills and connections to guide their mentees and help them achieve goals. Understanding what a mentor does can help determine if this career is worth pursuing. In this article, we explain what a mentor does and provide tips on being a mentor to help you become successful in your career.

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What does a mentor do?

Learning the answer to the question, 'What does a mentor do?' can help you understand how to become a mentor. A mentor guides and encourages mentees and helps them achieve their goals. They usually have greater knowledge, expertise and networks and use these to advance their mentees' careers. Mentorship can have long-term career-altering benefits for both mentors and mentees. Mentees can gain valuable advice that leads to their career advancement, and mentors can demonstrate leadership qualities by advising their mentees. Review the following duties and responsibilities of a mentor:

Sharing knowledge and experiences

Mentors share their knowledge to support and guide their mentees. This knowledge may be directly related to the industry or be personal. For example, a university professor can advise students on what modules to take to gain adequate skills and expertise for a job. They can also help students handle personal situations if they wish to, depending on similar past experiences. This part of mentorship allows mentees to approach situations with confidence and knowledge and empowers them to achieve their goals.

Related: 15 types of mentor qualities (plus example questions)

Providing opportunities and connections

Mentorship involves giving mentees opportunities to learn new skills, meet new people and advance their careers. This involves understanding your mentee's current abilities and goals and finding opportunities that may benefit them. For example, in a workplace setting, a mentor can help a mentee get a job promotion or find a new job that interests and suits them. Mentors also introduce their mentees to other influential individuals who can help them attain their goals. For instance, a senior manager can introduce their mentee looking for a job to a potential employer.

Related: Helpful mentor feedback examples (with definition and tips)

Acting as a referee

A referee provides references about a person's character, skills, qualifications and experiences. Mentees use these references on their CVs, cover letters, personal statements and other job application materials when looking for a new job or promotion. As a mentor, providing a reference gives your mentee credibility. Examples of reference letters are professional, academic and character references. A professional reference confirms a mentee's skills, experience, educational qualifications and accomplishments. If you're mentoring someone you supervise, you can write a professional reference letter for your mentee if they're seeking a new position.

An academic reference confirms a mentee's academic credentials and expounds on their capabilities. University lecturers and secondary school teachers can write academic references for their students to help them get jobs or gain acceptance into higher education institutions for further training. A character reference outlines a mentee's personality traits. These letters can help mentees who don't have work experience or have been out of work for a while. Sports coaches, religious leaders, friends, family members and community leaders can write character references for their mentees.

Identifying and sharing resources

Mentors share resources with their mentees that help them learn new information, perform their jobs more effectively and prepare for assessments. If you want to become a mentor, consider staying current on valuable resources within your field. These resources include the following:

  • company and governmental guidelines on specific procedures, especially in industrial and manufacturing companies

  • software tools that increase efficiency and reduce errors, such as coding tools for programmers

  • latest edition textbooks and valuable journals for university students

  • online videos that train people on how to perform specific tasks

  • access to seminars, lectures and workshops

Related: Why is mentoring important? (A complete guide)

Training mentees

Mentees may need training on specific office procedures and tools, especially if they're new hires in a company. A company manager may assign a mentor to help new hires during the onboarding process by showing them how to perform specific tasks following company guidelines. Mentors can also train mentees on how to perform integral tasks at work. For example, a senior surgeon can mentor a junior doctor by teaching them surgical and clinical skills and advising them on where they can improve.

This mentorship task requires mentors to schedule time with their mentees. A mentor can set this schedule on their own or ask their mentee to prepare this schedule.

Related: 12 mentoring tips you can use to become a better mentor

Reviewing CVs and cover letters

Mentors review their mentees' CVs, cover letters and other job application materials to help them present themselves adequately and impress hiring managers. They may also evaluate personal statements for mentees' university applications. During these reviews, they may highlight errors, suggest changes and add information. To analyse a mentee's CV or cover letter, ensure they contain the following information:

  • Contact details: Universities and companies need a candidate's contact information to communicate with them about the next steps.

  • Professional summary or objective: A CV contains a professional summary outlining a candidate's experience, skills and quantifiable accomplishments or an objective stating what the candidate wants to achieve.

  • Skills: You can suggest that your mentee includes hard skills directly related to their jobs, such as programming skills for software developers and soft skills that help them work with others, such as communication.

  • Academic background: Check that your mentee includes academic qualifications that make them suitable for the job and showcase their expertise.

  • Experience: Including experiences helps hiring managers determine a candidate's capabilities, which allows them to choose a suitable candidate.

Giving interviewing advice

Mentees approach their mentors for advice when preparing for interviews for university entrance, scholarship awards or job opportunities. A mentor can advise them on what to discuss during these interviews. For example, a mentor can tell their mentee to research a company's goals, mission, vision, culture and competition. This information can give mentees commercial awareness about the job they're applying for, which shows hiring managers their interest in the position.

Mentors can hold practice sessions with their mentees and coach them through their answering techniques. They can also advise their mentees on how to dress for the interview and how to contact potential employers following an interview.

Advising on professional growth

Mentors can advise mentees on various ways to advance their careers. This advice can include which professional organisations to join, what certifications and postgraduate training courses to apply for and which skills to improve. As mentors guide their mentees, they can also discover ways to advance their careers.

Related: Benefits of mentoring for mentors, mentees and organisations

Tips on being a mentor

The following are some tips on being a mentor:

Set expectations

The first step of setting expectations as a mentor is determining what you want from the mentor-mentee relationship. This involves understanding whether you want to learn from your mentee as they learn from you, assessing your knowledge gaps and connections and discovering how being a mentor can help strengthen your leadership qualities. Asking yourself these questions can help you create a mentorship strategy and set expectations for yourself and your mentee.

Consider setting expectations about how often you'd like to meet your mentees and whether you'd meet them virtually or physically. This can help you schedule meetings in advance. Other expectations you can set include what metrics and other measures you plan on using to track your mentee's progress, which resources you want to use to train your mentee and how involved you want to be in your mentee's progression. These factors allow you to set, track and achieve your and your mentees' goals.

Related: How to be a good mentor (with definition and steps)

Take an interest in your mentees

Taking an interest in your mentees can help you understand their personality and talents, enabling you to become a more effective mentor. Consider asking them about their personal and professional goals and sharing similar experiences to inspire them. You can learn more about your mentees by being an active listener, which involves paying attention to your mentees' conversations and asking them follow-up questions to understand their thoughts.

Related: The importance of the relationship between mentee and mentor

Celebrate your mentees' achievements

Celebrating your mentees' achievements can show them you care about your progress, encouraging them to keep pursuing your mentorship and guidance. It also motivates them to keep working toward achieving their goals and building their confidence. You can celebrate their accomplishments by offering gift vouchers, buying them meals or giving them a special mention on social media platforms.

Find resources for your mentee

Identifying and sharing resources for your mentees can help you guide them through their careers. Consider their goals and look for opportunities to help them achieve these objectives. These resources can include software apps and tools that help individuals automate some of their tasks, improving efficiency. If you work in the same place as your mentee, consider giving them new projects and challenges to teach them new skills and increase their confidence.

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