Best Practices for Mentees

You should drive the relationship. The mentee should take responsibility for being the main driver of the relationship. Reach out to your mentor regularly to schedule meetings or phone calls and follow up within 24 hours of their responses to you. Please set an agenda for your meetings to stay on track and get all of your questions answered. Always ask at the end of each meeting “when should we meet next?” so that you can get a date on the calendar.

The relationship should be mutually beneficial. Mentors want you to ask insightful, thoughtful questions that you cannot find the answers to online or through someone else. Please keep both your goals and your mentor’s goals in mind during each meeting. Working toward and achieving those goals is critical to the success of the mentorship relationship.

Be gracious. Thank your mentor often for their time. The best way to show how thankful you are for your mentor’s time is to respect it. Arrive on time for all meetings and keep your interactions and emails concise. 

Follow up. As with any business connection, always follow up. For example, let your mentor know what resulted from your conversation and how their advice worked out, or thank them for putting you in touch with someone. This is an important touch point to thank the person and show what they did had an important impact on you. This is a key behavior to building a solid, sustainable network.

Avoid being negative. Your time with your mentor should be spent sharing problems and looking for solutions or getting their advice and feedback on a certain issue you are tackling. Your mentor’s time is precious and should not be spent airing grievances or gossip. Try to stay positive and professional when discussing a difficult co-worker or situation.

Avoid impersonal, transactional exchanges. Remember that your mentor genuinely enjoys connecting with you (that’s why they volunteered their time to work with you!) so ask their advice, listen to their stories, and be authentic.

Prior to your first meeting, follow these tips to be prepared:

  • Look at your mentor’s CV. Become familiar with their career path and background.

  • Reflect on your goals. What do you want to get out of this first meeting? What are your larger goals for what you want to get out of this relationship? What do you need and expect out of your mentor? 

  • Bring questions. Write out a list of questions you would like to ask. More than likely the conversation will be quite informal and flow naturally, but having those questions will help you in your discussion.

  • Express your intentions. Open your conversation with your mentor with “today I’d like to accomplish…” and list 2-3 items you want to to cover. This will keep you on track and anchor you to your goals.

  • Have a good time. Relax and enjoy yourself. Your mentor has volunteered their time because they want to get to know you and help you.

Consider signing up to be a mentor. Any faculty, at any academic rank, can be a mentor. Remember, you can be both a mentor and a mentee at the same time!