Working with a mentor can be an invaluable experience for both parties. The mentor and mentee will likely learn new things about themselves and each other that will help them move toward career goals. But to make the relationship work, each party needs to understand the role they play.
The role of a mentor is to act as:
- Advisor and coach: provide advice, guidance, and feedback; share their experience and expertise as appropriate; act as a sounding board for ideas and action plans
- Champion and cheerleader: offer encouragement and support to try new things; help mentees move out their comfort zones; celebrate successes; help mentees understand when things do not go as planned
- Resource and recommendations: identify resources that will help mentees with personal development and growth, such as recommending books, workshops, or other learning tools; encourage mentees to join networking organizations or introduce them to new contacts
- Devil's advocate and “truth-sayer”: provide the tough feedback that mentees need to hear in order to move forward; push mentees to take risks when appropriate; help mentees consider and weigh potential consequences of decisions and actions to avoid the pitfalls and predictable surprises that may occur.
Meanwhile, the mentees have their own responsibilities, including:
- identify initial learning goals and measures of success for the mentoring relationship
- be open to and seek feedback
- take an active role in their own learning and help drive the process
- Schedule and attend mentor conversations
- follow through on commitments and take informed risks as they try new options and behaviors in support of career and development goals.
In your first mentoring conversations, you will want to discuss and clarify expectations with your mentor these sorts of roles and responsibilities. Good luck!