Learn best practices for communicating about your mentorship structure and goals, learn how to have a productive first meeting, and get some tips on building the relationship as the mentorship progresses.
Your and your mentor/mentee's expectations might not fully align, and that's ok!
Just make sure you both communicate what your expectations are, then work together to talk through what you'd like the mentorship to look like and what you both want to get out of it.
You can use the timeline and goal-setting tools in your Mentorship Hub to help structure your mentorship.
How one mentor/mentee pair compromised on structuring their mentorship
We chatted with mentee Kaylee about how she worked with her mentor to clarify and align expectations.
Her first piece of advice was to “lay it all out there. [...] I think if you don’t establish those kinds of goals and expectations right at the beginning, you leave a lot of space for uncertainty to fester.”
Not all of Kaylee’s expectations aligned with those of her mentor. But because they clarified their expectations going into the mentorship, they were able to talk through the discrepancies in their expectations right away and make sure the mentorship worked for them.
"What my mentor wanted to do was step away from the career aspect, which is kind of what I came into the mentorship expecting to focus on (I wanted someone who could help me with my career, with industries, with networking)."
Kaylee and her mentor were able to meet in person for their first conversation. During that conversation, they discussed expectations and goals.
"During our first conversation, he said, 'I'd like to be your mentor for a long time, not just for the school year, and I'd like to help you personally, not just career-wise.'
Kaylee was enthusiastic about trying the structure her mentor proposed.
"That was a really good goal that we established right off the bat. And it was a really big surprise to me, but it was a welcome surprise, to hear that he wanted to make it a long term situation, that he wanted it to be more than just a means to an end, and that he actually wanted to help with my well being and help me become a better person."
Asked later what advice she'd have for mentors, one mentee referred to her mentor's example and recommended clarifying expectations and setting goals early. She urged mentors to "find out about your mentee, ask how they learn, clarify expectations, and really hear what they’re saying."
Kaylee recommended that mentors take the lead on providing this structure, "because mentees are very nervous and might not speak up or might not know how to speak up."
We’ve set up some starter goals for you during your mentorship under the "Goals" section in your communications Inbox (e.g. the icon in the top right).
These goals reflect milestones you can check-off throughout the program.
You can (and should!) customize and add to these goals based on what you want to learn and accomplish by the end of this mentorship. Note that some goals may not be editable - that's fine, it just means your site-admins chose not to make those goals customizable.
Then make sure to check back in to complete the goals and ensure you stay on track as your mentorship progresses!
Goal Setting Best Practices
We recommend reviewing the Effective Mentoring Practices resources (attached below) for tips on setting effective, achievable goals.
As you set goals, it might help to divide them into two categories - short-term goals and long-term goals.
Setting short-term goals is key for helping you discover what you want — and can — achieve in your mentorship. Work with your mentor to refine and clarify these in your second meeting. Agree on tasks that will help you reach your goals.
Setting long-term goals is key to giving you direction to where you really want to end up, not just somewhere circumstances may take you.
Concentrate on what you'd like to accomplish over the new few years. How can you mentor help set you up to accomplish these goals?
Keep Your Goals: S.M.A.R.T.
What successful goal-setting looks like
We talked with mentee Kaylee Nguyen about how she worked with her mentor to set short- and long-term goals.
In this case, though, Kaylee didn’t need to look for another mentor. Kaylee’s mentor demonstrated an attention to detail and structure similar to her own.
“I let my mentor know [what I wanted], and it was good because he had come in with the same expectations. I think if you don’t establish those kinds of goals and expectations right at the beginning, you leave a lot of space for uncertainty to fester.”
During the first few months of their mentorship, they set aside short term-goals (like talking about finding a job or interviewing) and focused instead on long-term goals.
"He had me write down fifteen things that I want to be known for when I'm sixty. From there we got it down to three, and he shared his personal top three things with me."
This focus on long-term goals wasn’t what Kaylee had originally expected, but it worked out: true to the expectations they had set in their first meeting, they soon began to narrow their focus to career specific topics (short-term goals).
"He’s looked over my resume for me and helped me network. And when I get a job offer, he's able to talk that through with me and make sure I'm considering everything that he maybe hadn’t considered when he first started out.
"From a career standpoint, that was everything that I was expecting and hoping for, but on the other hand, because of how we started out [with a focus on long-term goals], he's been able to refer back and say 'These are your top three values, and I can tell you right now that this job would not align with them.'
"I didn't realize how much my personal values aligned with deciding what I wanted to do with my career, so I'm really grateful I decided to join the mentoring program. I consider him not just a mentor but a friend now."
The most successful mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial, stemming from reciprocal generosity and respect. Mentees receive support and accountability, while mentors gain the satisfaction of giving back and helping someone else to succeed and flourish.
We've found that the following best practices help to create the most effective mentorship relationships:
- Respect the other person and their time.
- Express gratitude.
- Collaborate on projects and solutions.
- Be open, honest, and fully authentic.
- Spend time getting to know one another.
- Always follow up.
- Commitment is key.
- Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and biases.
- Give your full, undivided attention.
- Maintain clear and appropriate boundaries.
Modify this timeline as needed to best fit your mentorship!
Meeting #1 (Week 1: Set Goals)
Meeting #2 (Week 2-3: Refine)