Overview of the Mentoring Process

Beginning the Relationship

At the beginning of their mentoring relationship, mentors and mentees should discuss how they want to structure their partnership. The following outline, which is tied to the first two of the Evolution of the Mentoring Relationship phases covered in the prior section, can help partners plan their future work together.

This is a summary of the information covered in greater depth when we examine the process from the individual viewpoint of the mentor and the mentee in their specific training.



First Meeting: Building Rapport

The first mentoring meeting is critical. It is important at the very beginning of the mentoring process for the partners to get to know each other and clarify the overall mentoring goals. The end result of this conversation will be a Mentoring Partnership Agreement, a formal document signed by all members of a mentoring team that spells out the expectations and responsibilities of everyone involved. Additional vital information concerning the acquisition of the competencies needed to successfully navigate these phases will be provided within the personalized mentor and mentee training.

Step 1 - Get Acquainted: Start with what you might have in common. Break the ice by talking about family, hobbies, interests, and personal histories.

  • Find the commonalities. Number of years in the industry, have you both worked for the same organization, similar career paths, common skills, etc.
  • Look for uniqueness. Share what specialized knowledge you bring to the partnership, do you speak a foreign language, bring technical expertise, etc.
  • Explore hobbies. Do you have a hobby? What do you do when you are not working?
  • How similar/different are behavioral styles? What are the benefits of being matched with someone who is a different behavioral style? A similar style?

Step 2 - Discuss Your Overall Mentoring Goals: Make sure the mentor (and the mentee) is clear about what the mentee hopes to gain from the process. Use these question to guide the discussion.

  • Where are you going?
  • What are your visions and aspirations?
  • Where are you now?
  • What are your strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral style?
  • How can your mentoring relationship to help you to:
    • Build technical skills
    • Multitask
    • Explore new ideas
    • Forge a new career path
    • Expand your network
    • Build your confidence
  • Identify your top 3 goals.

Step 3 - Create a Mentoring Partnership Agreement: Discuss and sign a letter of understanding that lays out time commitments, goals, and pledges about general rules of behavior understood by both parties. Outline the parameters of confidentiality so that each partner is clear that their discussions are privileged and private information and will not be shared unless legally necessary.

  • Clarify mentoring goals, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Establish a meeting schedule.
    • Where?
    • When?
    • How long?
    • Frequency?
  • Determine who will initiate meetings.
  • Consider geographical differences and make accommodations.
  • Outline the parameters for information sharing. For example, “What we discuss stays between the two of us.” Or “What we discuss stays between the two of us unless you give me permission to share it with others.”

To see a sample of a completed Mentoring Partnership Agreement look in your Mentoring Workbook or click here

Second Meeting: Setting Direction

The partners have collaboratively created a mentoring agreement outlining what they wish to accomplish and when. Now they must forge a plan or strategy delineating how they will go about achieving their goals. A key outcome of this conversation is a plan of action or Mentoring Action Plan . This vehicle helps create a safe environment for the mentee to examine behaviors or areas that they want to change or improve. A mentor can be a wealth of knowledge during this stage by sharing resources, developmental ideas, and opportunities to stretch and grow.

Step 1 - Review the Top 3 Mentoring Goals: Mentees should prepare by reviewing their notes from the previous meeting and think about what they would like to focus on at subsequent meetings and in what order. Prior to the second meeting, a mentee should place in writing:

  • A list of their mentoring/learning goals in order of priority.
  • The objectives that describe how to achieve their goals.

Each time they meet, mentors should then set a meeting objective based on those goals and assemble any supplementary materials in advance of the session. Both partners should evaluate the mentee's progress toward the identified objectives and goals each time they meet.  

Step 2 - Create a List of Learning Activities, Resources Required, and a Timeline The most successful plans are those that have a range of learning activities that advance the attainment of goals by encouraging:

  • Learning by doing (ex., special project, writing a memo, etc.).
  • Learning from others (ex., shadowing, situational mentoring, etc.) .
  • Learning from challenging experiences or “stretch assignments” (ex., project outside of work, leadership role, etc.).

Indicate any outside resources you may need to accomplish each activity. With your Mentoring Agreement in hand, also determine how many hours, days, or weeks it will take to complete each activity.

Step 3 – Put Your Mentoring Action Plan in writing. Planning puts our goals into action. Putting the goals, action steps, resources needed and a target completion date that are part of the Mentoring Action Plan onto paper helps mentees translate their goals into executable and attainable steps and allows the partners to plan and track their successes.

To see a copy of the Mentoring Action Plan worksheet, either click here or consult your Mentoring Workbook.



In your Mentoring Workbook, locate the exercise titled "Adult Learning Principles with Implications." You are provided with the adult learning principle and which element of mentoring it impacts. Demonstrate your understanding of mentoring thus far by indicating how you would apply each principle to the element indicated. After you have completed the page, check your answers here. Use your back arrow to return to this page. A copy of the answers is also included in your Mentoring Workbook.

Moving Forward

Thus far, together as mentor and mentees, we have: examined what mentoring is and is not

  • explored reasons why mentoring works in general
  • looked at reasons how mentoring might work at different stages of one's career
  • shattered some common mentoring myths
  • identified the mentoring benefits for all parties involved
  • discussed the phases of the mentoring relationship
  • indicated the desirable competencies to have for each phase
  • reviewed behaviors that must be reciprocal in nature for mentoring success,
  • and outlined the steps needed to begin the mentoring process

You now have the option of continuing this training sequence, no matter what role you intend to assume, or proceed directly to the training specifically designed for your role.

Back | Continue forward to training specifically designed for Mentors or click here to proceed directly to training specifically designed for Mentees.

©2009 PCaddick