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News & Blog > Mentoring & Advice > What is Mentoring: Roles of mentor & mentee

What is Mentoring: Roles of mentor & mentee

Some guidance on what a mentor and mentee is and what to expect from a mentoring relationship

Role of a mentor

  • Be realistic in how much time you can commit and the frequency of contact
  • Provide relevant guidance give specific feedback
  • Assess existing skills and help identify skills gaps
  • Ask questions and offer constructive criticism using own experiences and knowledge
  • Provide a trusting environment to mentees as well as positive feedback about their strengths
  • Listen and comment on the mentees possible solutions to professional and career challenges, without evaluating or judging. Practice.
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Online mentors should hide their profile if temporarily unable to help mentees

Role of a mentee

  • Be willing to take responsibility for own career and professional development or growth.
  • Think carefully about what you want from the mentoring relationship, what are your goals and are the SMART (smart, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound)?
  • Be open to seeking mentors outside of your specific subject or sector, valuable guidance can come from all careers and paths
  • Initiate and drive the relationship, don’t sit back, it’s a two-way process. We all lean on each other for specific knowledge, expertise, networks and all important soft skills, and both mentor and mentee will want to contribute, connect, and share valuable information.
  • Do not seek personal or career favours out of the relationship.
  • Bring challenges to mentoring sessions for discussion and share concerns with mentor
  • Be receptive to constructive criticism and feedback as well as feeling comfortable to provide feedback to the mentor on what is or isn’t working in the mentoring relationship
  • Follow through on commitments
  • Understand what your mentor expects from you and allocate time and energy to the mentoring relationship

Mentoring isn’t coaching or training

A mentor is sometimes confused with a coach or trainer, here are some of the differences to help you.
Money - a coach or trainer is paid, whereas a mentor is a volunteer, a mentor's reward is altruistic.
Outcomes – coaches help with specific problems, mentoring is more relationship focussed
Time – coaching is time bound, either by a deadline or an outcome. A mentoring relationship is bound by time, but it can be re-started at anytime and isn’t constrained by a set time period. A mentoring relationship can last years or it could be one Skype call.

Reward is altruistic   Paid for their time
Guided by time, but not time bound   Time bound, around a deadline or outcome
Relationship focussed   Structured around a specific, short-term problem
Agenda set by mentee, they are responsible for cultivating and driving the relationship   Coach directs the learning of the student. Focussing on immediate goals

Mentoring isn’t therapy or counselling

A great mentor will give advice on tough professional (and potentially personal) situations like job struggles and troubles, but it is important to not treat your mentor like a therapist. (If, as a mentor, you are worried about your mentees well-being or mental health please contact the IDS alumni office ).

Consistent positivity should be the basis of mentoring, concentrating on moving forward and making progress, not dwelling on issues and troubles.

Many of us need a therapist type person in our lives but this is not the role of your mentor.It is not productive or inspiring for mentor or mentee to try and include this as part of a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring isn’t a cure all/your mentor is not a fairy godperson

Mentors can’t magically grant wishes.  But they can do amazing things for you, they can

  • Increase your careers prospects
  • Increase confidence
  • Help with transitions like relocation or career changes
  • Increase leadership

It is important for all parties to remember that success and progress are a product of all the aspects of your life and are guided by a desire to change and progress.


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