Mentorship: Being a good mentor or mentee

Mentorship: Being a good mentor or mentee

Ask any successful person the keys to their success and they’re likely to add “having a mentor” to that list. For example, Oprah called Maya Angelou her “greatest mentor” who was there for her every step of the way and “taught her some of the most profound lessons of her life”. A mentor can take on many forms; they can make transitions into the workplace easier, they can advise you on projects, be a sounding board, help you hone your craft and be one of the first people to realise that you have what it takes to achieve all your goals and cheer you on to do it. A good mentor-mentee relationship can be life-changing and rewarding for everyone involved. 

First off, what is mentorship?

Simply put, mentoring often involves a relationship where someone in a senior position or is more experienced will advise, help and guide someone in a junior or less experienced position. Mentors will typically take the time to know their mentee and their circumstances and get to know them as a person. This position is often more personal and requires more trust than the relationship you’d have with a manager or your boss. At its core, mentoring is about people and supporting someone through their personal development. 

There are no set ‘rules’ to mentoring or mentorship but the relationship should be defined by the parties involved. Some mentorships are strictly career-based and may only last, for example, for the length of a programme. Other mentorships may be more personal where the mentor and mentee become friends and part of each other’s lives. And the great thing is that you could have many mentors during the course of your personal and professional development. 

What makes a good mentor?

There’s a quote by author and lecturer, Bob Proctor that says, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” There’s a common misconception that mentors give you all the answers or that they’re the ones that are supposed to be making all the effort in the relationship but they aren’t. Mentors are kind of like maps, they aren’t exactly telling you where to go but guiding you to the best routes, the choice to follow is still up to you. 

When looking for a good mentor or being one, keep the following characteristics in mind:

  • A good and active listener
  • Empathic
  • Is supportive and encouraging
  • Can give constructive and valuable feedback
  • Interested in helping you achieve your goals
  • Builds trust and creates an environment free of judgment 
  • Keeps conversations confidential

What makes a good mentee

The mentor-mentee relationship requires both parties to be active, so as a mentee you should be doing your part to drive the relationship and get the most out of the valuable time your mentor is offering you. 

Some suggestions on how to be a good mentee include:

  • Taking responsibility for your own learning
  • Being open to feedback
  • Asking questions
  • Communicate your needs
  • Be respectful of your mentor’s time
  • Be committing to your development

As we said above, mentorship can be life-changing for everyone involved. And like any relationship, a mentorship requires both parties to be active participants. Whether you’re a mentor or mentee, be sure to do your part and make the most of this opportunity to learn, grow and develop in your professional and personal life. 

Would you like to read more about mentoring? Learn some tips on building trust and a good relationship with your mentee here and here.


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