Skip navigation - Jump to page content

Career Development - Mentee Guide
Skills for Successful Mentees

Typically in a mentoring relationship, much discussion and thought is spent on determining the skills of the mentor. In addition, there are skills that mentees need in order to be successful.

What skills do you think might be helpful to you as a mentee?

Asking Questions

The basis of a mentoring relationship is imparting information from one person to another. Left to chance, a mentee will get the information, advice, or guidance that the mentor wants to give, or thinks is helpful, which may be enough in many cases. However, since the relationship is primarily for the mentee's benefit, being able to ask for what you want, need, and are curious about is an important skill for mentees. High quality questions can help you get what you really want from your mentor and make the best use of the time you spend with him or her.

Journalists have long known the key questions to ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Using these questions as a guide to developing inquiries for your mentor, you can begin to build productive questions.

Skill Practice

You have been given a lead from your mentor about an opportunity to serve on a committee that you would love to be involved in. Using a journalist's questions, write down at least three quality questions to ask your mentor.

Listening Skills

All the best questions in the world are useless unless you can actively listen for the information that will be helpful to you. Here are four points to bear in mind to help you listen.

Building Trust

A mentoring relationship is based on trust. As a mentee, you are placing a great deal of trust in your mentor to provide you with helpful guidance. At the same time, mentors are trusting that mentees will not take advantage of the relationship (e.g., wasting your mentor's time, repeating information not intended for others, asking for favors, inappropriately using the relationship). Building trust can take time; our behaviors can accelerate the time it takes. Give some thought about what behaviors can help you quickly establish trust with your mentor.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

Many mentoring relationships will pair a mentee with a high-level or prominent leader. Research has shown that these relationships are sometimes slow to develop because the mentee is often uncomfortable with their mentor. This discomfort can come from a variety of factors. Mentees reported that they were afraid to make mistakes or appear vulnerable in front of their mentors; they had trouble viewing their mentors as partners and they considered their own problems and needs as insignificant.

A reluctant or hesitant mentee can be frustrating to a mentor, particularly a mentor who is high-level or prominent, so it's important that you develop techniques to become comfortable early on in your mentoring relationship.

How would you find your comfort zone with a high-level or prominent leader?

Most of us can become more comfortable in any situation by being prepared. What are some ways you can prepare for your mentoring relationship? Some ideas include:

Resolving Differences

In any relationship, at times there are disagreements or misunderstandings, and a mentoring relationship is no different. Keeping in mind that mentoring relationships are partnerships, it's important to accept that you have a right to express yourself when you want to make adjustments to the mentoring relationship. However, it's just as important to make sure that you resolve differences appropriately, professionally, and respectfully. Some examples of differences that might crop up in a mentoring relationship include:

Making the Moment(s) Count

Unless we reflect upon our experiences, we can often miss out on the gems in moments we spend with others, including our mentor. Keeping a mentoring journal is one suggestion for capturing and remembering the lessons you learn through this important relationship. After each meeting, ask yourself what you learned from the meeting and how you can apply the learning. Summarize your responses to these questions and share them with your mentor. Let your mentor give you feedback and then ask him or her--as well as yourself--if there's anything else you've learned through the meeting.

Next Section of the Mentee Guide

Managing a Successful Relationship

Job Search Tools