How to be a Successful Mentee


This section of our training is focused entirely on the roles, qualities, and skills of an successful mentee. If your role is that of a mentor, you are welcome to stay with us as we explore the world of a mentee, or you can go directly to the section on Evaluating the Mentoring Relationship by clicking here.

Let's take a moment to review the definition of mentoring:

Mentoring is a collaborative learning relationship between individuals who share mutual responsibility and accountability for helping the mentee work toward the fulfillment of clear and mutually defined learning goals. Mentoring is used to assist individuals at specific stages of development or transition and lasts for a sustain ed but defined period of time. The mentoring relationship provides a developmental opportunity for both parties and can thus be of mutual benefit.

This definition structures your mentee role as one of an achiever willing to take the initiative for his/her own development and make the most of available learning opportunities. You are responsible for devoting your time to the mentoring relationship with on-going interaction with your mentor. Mentoring is a journey mentors and mentees embark on together and both have a responsibility to create a committed, mutually beneficial relationship. Throughout this journey, two individuals help each other arrive at a common destination called professional excellence.

Mentee's Responsibilities

As the mentee, you are the “gauge” to measure how interactive and how successful a mentoring connection will be. By acknowledging that the development of your career can be enhanced through a series of planned experiences, you decide upon the amount of help and guidance you need. You identify the skills and competencies you wish to gain and assume the initiative ask for the help or guidance to achieve your goals. Your responsibilities include absorbing the mentor's knowledge and then demonstrating what you have learned.

Click here to return to section one to review the effective and ineffective characteristics of a mentee. When you are finished, click on the link "How to be an Successful Mentee" to return here.

Types of Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring can take the form of one-time intervention or a lifelong partnership. It can be as formal as a structured employee orientation or as informal as an element of a professional friendship. Anyone who has been successfully mentored recognizes the impact on their life or the result in their career, but may not have been able to put a name to it at the time.

Review the diagram of the four types of mentoring structures and think about how they relate to your past encounters. We have all had these experiences, whether we were the mentor or the mentee.

Please go to your Mentoring Workbook and, using the worksheet titled "Types of Mentoring Relationships," describe one relationship you have experienced or observed for each of the four categories shown.


What Should I Look for in a Mentor?

Whether you intend to be part of a formal, informal or a situational mentoring relationship, some vital qualities to seek in a mentor are that they:
•  Have the energy and ability to support you.
•  Possesses a strong professional network.
•  Have experience in the area or field that you have identified for development.
•  Are an excellent listener.
•  Are trustworthy, non-judgmental, and ethical.
•  Have a genuine interest in helping you develop personally and professionally.
•  Are well respected by their peers in their field of expertise.
•  Possess a work style and work ethic similar to yours, unless the different style is what you are seeking to master.

Click here and download the file to watch a video of James T. Yardley, PhD., entitled "Finding a Mentor. " Dr. Yardley suggests that you be on the lookout for possible mentors that can help you move forward...but be forewarned that mentoring is a mutual relationship with all the caveats that go with it. When you are finished, use your back arrow to return to this page.

What Can I Expect To Gain From A Mentoring Relationship?

One of key tasks a mentee needs to perform to ensure a productive relationship with a mentor is to be very clear about what you expect and need. No mentor will be able to meet all of your needs, but by explicitly articulating your expectations it will afford the mentor an opportunity to clarify which ones they can successfully meet.

Please locate the page "Mentee Expectations" in your Mentoring Workbook. Use this worksheet to develop an understanding of what you expect to gain from your mentoring relationships. By clarifying your own expectations, you will be able to communicate them more effectively to your mentors.

Are You Ready to be Mentored?
If you can answer yes to the following questions, you are ready to begin learning more about being a successful mentee.

•  I except full responsibility for my career goals and would benefit from guidance in creating a plan for my development.
•  I am prepared to listen, but I understand that I am also expected to contribute to the relationship by sharing my ideas.
•  I will accept constructive feedback and take the risk of exploring new ideas and approaches suggested by my mentor.
•  My expectations for my mentoring relationships are well-thought out and realistic.
•  I am busy, but I am ready to make a commitment to my future by communicating effectively with my mentor.
•  I will remember that in order to succeed I must fail so that I will know what not to do next time

Click here to watch a short video "Life = Risk" on people who persevered no matter how many times they failed in life. You may be amazed to see who they are, but you can be sure that sometime in their lives, they had a mentor that encouraged them to continue trying. When you are finished, use your back arrow to return to this page.

Qualities of a Successful Mentee

Quality: Personal commitment to be involved with another person for an extended time. The mentee has to want to be a full partner in the mentoring connection and be invested, over the long haul, to be there long enough to realize a difference. To that end, they prepare and do the appropriate "homework" for meetings with their mentor. They work to gain the skills, knowledge, and abilities to grow.

Quality: Flexibility. Successful mentees recognize that relationships take time to develop and that communication is a two-way street. They're flexible, listen to their mentor, and consider new options. They take initiative, seeking the mentor's advice when needed. And they focus on the goal, not getting lost in the process.

Quality: Ability to recognize that mentoring is only ONE development tool. Mentors can save you time plus inspire, teach, and encourage you. They can be excellent role models for what you want to do and become. At the same time, you can also learn from many other sources. By recognizing that you can benefit from a variety of sources, perspectives and styles – even those quite different from your own – you will open yourself up to new ideas, valuable information, and a wide range of viewpoints. Consider one or more mentors as part of your overall personal development strategy.

Quality: Openness. The mentee has to know and be able to discuss their needs and objectives with their mentor. This means that he or she has to look inside themselves to identify areas that may need work and share them with the mentor.

Quality: Ability to listen and to accept different points of view. The mentee needs to be able to receive feedback and look at the situation from the mentor's perspective to gain a more objective viewpoint. One of the biggest values of the mentoring connection is the ability to have a more experienced person's viewpoint. The mentee has to be willing to try new things, to consider different ways of "getting there from here."

Counterproductive Mentee behaviors: Twelve Habits of Toxic Mentee

A light-hearted look at how not to be a mentee!

  1. Bring to the first formal meeting a long shopping list of things you want the mentor to do for you
  2. Expect the mentor to be available for you, whenever you want them (heroes never need sleep!)
  3. Regard the mentor as your prime source of gossip to pass on
  4. Expect the mentor always to have the answer - that's why they are more senior
  5. Expect the mentor to decide when to meet and what to talk about
  6. Boast about the relationship to your colleagues at every opportunity
  7. Never challenge what the mentor says - s/he knows best
  8. Blame the mentor whenever advice doesn't work out - s/he should have known better
  9. Treat mentoring sessions as mobile - the easiest item in the diary to move at the last minute
  10. Enjoy the opportunity to have a good moan or whine, whenever you meet - especially if no-one else will listen to you
  11. Make it clear to the mentor that you want to be just like them - adopt their style of speaking, dress and posture
  12. Never commit to doing anything as a result of the mentoring session. If, by accident, you do, simply forget to follow the commitment up. (Why spoil the fun of discussion with outcomes?)


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