Your First Mentoring Meeting

Mentee's Viewpoint

First and foremost, take the responsibility for setting meetings with your mentor.  Experience has shown that relationships of this kind are most successful when the mentee takes the responsibility for managing the relationship. 

Be prepared to outline your professional experience to date. Provide additional clarity and background about your career goals and aspirations. Communicate and work together, understand each other's expectations and finalize the list of goals that your mentor feels he or she can adequately address during your partnership.

Click here to read "Tips for Starting Off Right," an article that makes the point that how you relate to your partner may be even more important than the material you cover. Expressing a genuine interest in your partner is the most critical goal here.

This chart describes the role you play in your important first mentoring meeting and provides you with insight into what you can expect from your mentor.

Mentee's Strategies for an Effective Mentoring Conversation


Mentor's Job

Mentee's Job

Come prepared

Learn whatever you can about your mentee before your initial meeting.

Learn whatever you can about your mentor before your initial meeting.

Talk about the big picture

Recount your own mentoring experiences to your mentee. Explain what worked and what didn't.

Listen and ask questions.

Discuss the mentee's needs

Ask questions and listen.

Explain where you are and where you would like to be…and how mentoring might help.

Seek mutual agreement on goals and expectations

Explain what you can and what you cannot do.

“This is what I hope to achieve through this mentoring relationship.”

Seek agreement on responsibilities

I will do______.

“And I agree to do_____.”

Set a timetable

“ Let's work on this for one month. Then we'll review progress and determine if we should continue .”

"Let's work on this for one month. Then we'll review progress and determine if we should continue."

Agree on meeting times and who will set them

Provide days and times that work for the mentee.

“I will take responsibility for finding dates and times that also fit into your schedule.”

Insist on confidentiality

“Nothing we discuss will go outside this room unless we both agree otherwise.”

“Nothing we discuss will go outside this room unless we both agree otherwise.”

Agree to be candid

Source: (Harvard Business Essentials, Mentoring, 2004)

“ If this relationship isn't producing the results you expect, or if you disagree with my advice, say so. Neither of us has time to waste .”

“I will tell you if this relationship isn't working for me. I won't waste your time.”

Completion of the activities illustrated in this chart is indicative of an excellent first mentoring meeting. This chart is also included in your Mentoring Workbook to serve as a meeting guide for you.

Go to your Mentoring Workbook, locate and complete the worksheet entitled "Planning for First Meetings - A Mentee's Checklist." This activity invites you to examine the items on the checklist so that you have an overview of the preparation you need to make for a successful meeting. Circle any that you may require additional preparation time and schedule your first meeting accordingly.


Beginning the Process

A Consensual Mentoring Partnership Agreement

We discovered in Overview of the Mentoring Process, that successful mentoring relationships start with a clear agreement about goals, procedures, and limitations. The greatest value of a mentoring agreement is that it will go a long way towards building trust and preventing the sadness of disappointment that can arise when either the mentor or mentee has different expectations for the relationship. Making the relationship explicit will clearly define what the relationship is, articulate specific expectations, define how success will be evaluated, and help determine if it is an appropriate relationship for everyone involved.

In your Mentoring Workbook you will find a "Sample of a Completed Mentoring Partnership Agreement" for you to review. You can also see a copy by clicking here.

Click here to read "Creating the Foundation for Your Mentoring Relationship," an article that illustrates how a good agreement provides the framework for the scope of the relationship and acts as a contract between the mentee and mentor.

After reviewing the sample and reading the article, here are some suggested components as well as corresponding open-ended questions that will facilitate the preparation of your agreement:

  • Well-defined goals (What does each participant want to accomplish?)
  • Boundaries and hot buttons (What are the not-to-exceed limits? What hot buttons exist?)
  • Confidentiality safeguards (What do we need to do to protect the confidentiality of this relationship?)
  • Success criteria and measurement (How will we know if we have succeeded?)
  • Accountability assurances (How do we ensure that we do what we say we are going to do?)
  • Ground rules (What are the norms and guidelines we will follow? Who will be responsible for what?)
  • Protocols for addressing stumbling blocks (What process should we have in place to deal with any stumbling blocks we encounter?)
  • Consensual mentoring agreement (What do we need to include to ensure that this agreement works for us?)
  • Mentoring work plan (What are the steps for achieving our goals?)

After you have completed your initial conversation, using the guidelines provided in this discussion and the handout "Mentee's Strategies for an Effective Mentoring Conversation" found here as well as in your Mentoring Workbook, you are ready to prepare a formal, written agreement in the form of a Mentoring Partnership Agreement. Your workbook contains a blank Agreement for you to review and to complete during your first meeting with your mentor. Are there any areas that you would like to add?

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