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How to be a good mentee: Tips to maximize your mentor relationship

A young woman who's smiling sits at a desk with a laptop, phone, note pad and cup of coffee in front of her while working from home.

You landed a great mentor, and you’re ready to be led wherever your mentor leads you, right? Wrong!

A good mentee owns the relationship, and your work is just beginning. Being mentored is exciting and has a ton of possibilities for learning, growth and exposure. But make no mistake, you are in control of that journey.

Set yourself up for maximum mentorship effectiveness with these three tips on how to be a good mentee.

What is a mentee?

Before determining what makes a good mentee, it’s important to answer, “What is a mentee?”

A mentee is someone in a relationship with a mentor. A mentee is typically someone less knowledgeable or experienced in an area or in the career journey. The mentor may provide guidance, share knowledge, spark thinking, challenge assumptions and broaden exposure of the mentee.

Tip 1: Own the mentor-mentee relationship.

The mentee “owns” the relationship. This means it’s up to you to take the lead.

During your first meeting with your mentor, start with an expectations exchange. Tell the mentor that as the mentee you are happy to develop the agendas and schedule the meetings. Gain alignment on this approach along with other key items, including:

  • How frequently will you meet?
  • How long will meetings last?
  • When and where will you meet?
  • Confidentiality expectations.
  • Ground rules.
  • Length of mentoring relationship.

Next, share your development needs and objectives for the relationship so your mentor clearly knows what you are looking to achieve during your partnership. Set each mentor meeting agenda to get after your development needs and objectives and what your mentor can uniquely share with you based on that person’s unique experiences.

Moving forward, recap the actions you’ve taken since your last mentor meeting to show you are taking the relationship seriously. Send the agenda several days in advance to give your mentor time to think and plan.

Tip 2: Value the relationship with your mentor.

Being a good mentee includes showing your mentor that you value your relationship with them. Three ways of doing this include:

1. Being a good listener.

Listen to your mentor’s perspectives, ideas and experiences with an open mind and in a nonjudgmental way. There’s always something to be learned or gained from a discussion.

Keep confidential the items your mentor may share with you. Don’t share sensitive information without first getting permission from your mentor.

2. Being open to feedback.

A key to using a mentor effectively is asking for feedback regularly. Be as specific as you can. For example, if your mentor is attending a presentation you are giving, ask for 2-3 things you did well and 2-3 things you can do to improve.

Take feedback to heart. Don’t be defensive and embrace and reflect on feedback received.

3. Taking notes.

Take notes during meetings with your mentor. This shows you are paying attention and value what is being said. If taking notes electronically, be clear that’s what you are doing so there’s no mistaking that you aren’t paying attention.

Tip 3: Take action to benefit from having a mentor.

Why have a mentor if you don’t do anything with the guidance and advice your mentor provided? To ensure a successful mentor and mentee relationship, you as the mentee need to:

1. Follow through on what you discuss or learn.

If your mentor suggests reading an article, read it! If your mentor recommends talking with another person, reach out to that person! If your mentor praises the value of a book, get it! If your mentor advises you try a certain approach to a situation, try it!

Take advantage of the opportunities suggested or provided to you.

2. Follow up with your mentor.

When you’ve used a technique or approach learned from your mentor, share how it went and what you’ve learned.

3. Be grateful for your mentor.

Share your appreciation for your mentor’s investment of time and energy in you and your success.

Show your capabilities

By owning the relationship and following these tips, you can showcase your leadership ability, planning and organization skills, action orientation, willingness to accept and use feedback and ability to learn and grow. Good luck!

Want to become a mentor yourself?

Ready to pay it forward and become a mentor for someone who is in the same place you once were? Learn how to become a professional mentor and start making a difference in a mentee’s life.

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Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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