Mentoring is a powerful development tool – and being a mentee presents you with a superb opportunity to learn and grow. Being a mentee is a “job,” just as it is for your mentor.

Regardless of what role you play in business mentoring, it’s important for everyone involved – mentor, mentee or programme manager, to understand a mentee’s role in maximising the mentoring relationship.

Here are 5 Tips to make the most out of a mentoring relationship:

1. It’s your job, not theirs 

The focus of mentoring is on YOU, the mentee. Therefore, don’t expect your mentor to do all the work. His or her role is to facilitate your development, not do it for you. Take the initiative and follow-up on agreed upon goals.

Remember that YOU own your development, your mentor doesn’t. It’s up to you to identify objectives as well as keep the relationship focused and moving forward.

2. Think commitment, not lip service

Regular, ongoing contact is one of the most important building blocks for successful mentoring. Agree with your mentor to meet on a regular and ongoing basis – commit to these and avoid cancelling appointments.

Your mentor probably has a very demanding job. He or she has possibly volunteered to take on the added responsibility of mentoring – so be appreciative of your mentor’s time and investment.

Respond in a timely manner to your mentor’s questions and comments. If you don’t have the time to respond at length, send a short message letting this person know you will be in contact when you have the opportunity.

3. Show up for the relationship

Be prepared before your meeting with anything agreed upon and with an issue to discuss that’s important to you. There’s always something to discuss since events will have occurred between the current meeting and the last one. The issue need not be particularly large – sometimes simple things can lead to great discussions and insights.

Make it easy for your mentor to give you honest, specific feedback. Ask for it early in your relationship.

4. Communicate clearly

Initiate contact with your mentor if you have questions or would like to discuss something. Identify your needs and be complete yet succinct in your comments and explanations; communicate these as clearly as possible to your mentor.

It will be helpful to put some focused energy into organising your thoughts and concerns before talking to your mentor, to ensure your time together is spent wisely.

Be prepared to ask for specific advice on your skill set, ideas, plans, and goals. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your mentor to respond.

5. Keep expectations realistic

Unstated assumptions or expectations can easily derail a relationship. To avoid this, you and your mentor should both discuss your expectations of each other and the relationship.

For example, discuss how often you’ll meet or what areas you will work on. When there’s a change in expectations, discuss this as well.

Relationships grow and change and so do expectations, so those agreed upon early on may not be the same later. Have periodic conversations to discuss your mutual expectations.

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