What Is the Role of a Mentor?

Mentor - Mentee

Serving as a mentor brings many challenges and rewards, with the best mentors working to shape their mentees into future leaders, rather than just good followers. If done well, the long-term impact of mentoring can offer life- and career-changing benefits to both parties.

Key Takeaways

    • Mentoring is not coaching. Mentors provide high-level encouragement and guidance but not instruction and support for routine, day-to-day work.
    • A mentor is a person with experience, knowledge, and connections who can help advance the career of another, usually more junior person.
    • For a successful mentorship, the mentee should be clear about their goals and open to critique and advice from the mentor.

Mentoring and Coaching: Similar But Not the Same

The terms mentoring and coaching often get used interchangeably, which can be confusing. While similar in their support of someone’s development, the roles involve different disciplines in practice.1

Mentoring consists of a long-term relationship focused on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. The mentor becomes a source of wisdom, teaching, and support, but not someone who observes and advises on specific actions or behavioral changes in daily work.

Coaching typically involves a relationship of finite duration, with a focus on strengthening or eliminating specific behaviors in the here and now. Coaches help professionals correct behaviors that detract from their performance or strengthen those that support stronger performance around a given set of activities.

Both mentoring and coaching offer valuable developmental support. However, one offers high-level guidance for long-term development, while the other helps provide a more immediate improvement in targeted areas.

What Is a “Mentor”

A character in Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” might rightly be said to be the original mentor. When Odysseus, King of Ithaca went to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to a man named Mentor. Mentor also served as the teacher and advisor of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus.2

In a more modern context, a mentor is someone with experience, knowledge, and connections who can help advance the career of another, usually more junior person. The American Psychological Association identifies two key developmental goals of the relationship between the mentor to the mentee: career improvement and psychological development.3

Why Seek Out a Mentor?

Suppose a talented individual lands a sales job, and gains a senior sales executive as their mentor. The senior executive might guide the new salesperson in their development as a leader, a strategist, and a business professional.


A mentor becomes a personal advocate for you, not so much in the public setting, but in your work life. Many organizations recognize the power of effective mentoring and have established programs to help younger professionals identify and gain support from a more experienced professional in this format.

The mentor might not instruct the sales associate in processes or provide on-the-spot coaching or training. Instead, they will challenge their mentee and encourage the mentee to think through issues and approaches by asking difficult-to-answer questions and serve as a source of wisdom when needed. The relationship as mentor and mentee generally ends after the mentee changes companies, but the senior executive’s impact carries through in the mentee’s work throughout the rest of their career.

Many people attribute part of their professional growth to the guidance of a patient mentor who challenged them to think differently and open their eyes and mind to different perspectives. While each of us develops at our own pace, this type of influence can have many positive and lasting effects.

What a Mentor Does for a Mentee

      • Takes a long-range view of your growth and development
      • Helps you see the destination but does not give you a detailed map to get there
      • Offers encouragement and cheerleading, but not “how-to” advice

What a Mentor Does Not Do

      • Serve as a coach or instructor
      • Function as an advocate of yours in the organizational environment such as your boss would; the relationship is more informal
      • Tell you how to do things
      • Support you on transactional, short-term problems
      • Serve as a counselor or therapist

The Mentee’s Responsibilities

When you first identify a mentor and establish a relationship, discuss and compare expectations for both the mentor and mentee roles. Clarify each person’s responsibilities, and the process the two of you will use going forward to communicate, understand career goals, follow through, and problem-solve if needed.

Make it your aim to maximize this experience so that you reap the full benefit while showing gratitude and respect to your mentor:3

      • Focus on being coachable and open to hearing feedback from your mentor whether or not it’s positive.
      • Don’t be afraid to ask for unvarnished advice or critiques. Practice your skills as a good listener, take what you can use, and leave the rest.
      • To provide structure for the relationship, specify upfront some initial career goals you have, such as learning specific procedures or processes, or preparing for a promotion, for example.
      • Discuss with your mentor how you can best measure the success and effectiveness of your working relationship together.
      • Make it a point to schedule conversations with your mentor, and keep those appointments faithfully.
      • As you commit to certain steps in your developmental progress or discuss taking educated risks to support the development of your career and move toward your goals, keep track of your discussions with your mentor and follow up specifically on those steps when you meet.

Brainstorm for ways that you can help to drive and maintain your relationship with your mentor. While your mentor invests his or her time to help you, you must also participate and actively pursue learning.

The Bottom Line

A mentor can make a real difference in your career and life. Come to the relationship with realistic expectations about the role and a willingness to work hard. The impact of a mentor’s guidance and wisdom now may not be felt for some years to come, but you will realize its positive impact over time and go on to become a mentor to others.

Source: thebalancemoney.com ~ By: F.John Reh ~ Image: Canva Pro


Professional Development For Mentors

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is essential for mentors. The suggested activities below have been designed to help you develop your mentoring skills and steward them intentionally and effectively.

Level 1: Learning about formal mentoring

    • Ask an experienced mentor to help you grow in your mentoring skills.
    • Read an article on cross-cultural mentoring and explore some websites that offer resources on mentoring. Check out our Resources page for inspiration.
    • Read a book on mentoring. You might want to see what is recommended on our Books page. Discuss your questions and reflections with your mentor. Explain how the book offers relevant insight for your work.
    • Reflect on the Personal Skills Inventory (FR: Inventaire des compétences personnelles), and ask someone who knows you well for feedback. Discuss what you have learned through this process with your mentor.
    • Explore a few personality tests (MBTI, DiSC, Enneagram, StrengthsFinder…), and reflect on what you are learning about yourself. Discuss with your mentor.
    • Choose a metaphor that best describes mentoring for you. Write a reflection on why you chose that particular metaphor and why it is especially meaningful for you at this time. If you share your reflection with us, we will be happy to post it on our blog.
    • Reflect on your previous experiences in mentoring (formal or informal) and explain how they have shaped you. Assess your strengths and weaknesses as a future mentor, and identify 5 strengths and 3 weaknesses. Discuss with your mentor how to work on the skills where improvement is most needed.
    • It is important for a mentor to be sensitive and supportive. Make a list of ways that demonstrate sensitivity and support towards a mentee in your cross-cultural context. Check with a friend from another culture whether your examples would work well in his/her culture. Discuss and note your reflections in a journal.

Level 2: Starting to practice formal mentoring under supervision

    • Reflect on the Mentor Traits and Skills (FR: Caractères et compétences d’un mentor) worksheet. Identify 5 strengths and 3 areas in which you would like to grow. With the help of your mentor, design a plan to work on those 3 areas you would like to develop.
    • Learn about coaching skills that can be helpful to you as a mentor (active listening, powerful questions, setting goals, giving feedback, etc.)
    • Start making a list of powerful questions that can be asked in different situations. Start memorizing a couple of them so that you may learn to use them effectively in new situations. If you need inspiration, you might want to look at this article on the use of questions in mentoring/consulting situations.
    • Under the supervision of your mentor, mentor one person in a specific skill for a short period of time. Ask your mentee for feedback on your mentoring. Identify 2 areas of growth and with the help of your mentor, design a plan to develop your skills in those areas.
    • Watch videos of difficult conversations between people. Analyze them and suggest ways to improve the communication between them in order to facilitate better interaction.
    • Look at mentoring case studies and discuss how the mentor could have supported the mentee better in those situations.
    • Write a personal, reflective case study about a mentoring experience. Analyze one aspect of mentoring it and then present it for discussion in your peer group.
    • Ask your mentee to give you examples of concrete ways you can be of support and encouragement to him/her.
    • Read a couple of articles about Dialogue Education and learning styles. Reflect on your own preferred learning style. Discuss with your mentee and with your mentor how what you have learned from your reading applies to your mentoring relationship(s). Note and explore cultural differences/preferences where you are aware of any.
    • If you work in a cross-cultural setting, explore how mentoring is done traditionally in the cultures around you. Note what you can learn from each culture’s approach to mentoring and how you can apply and share those insights in your context.
    • Write a short, personal reflection that explores how you have grown in the past few months in your self-awareness and in your understanding of your relationships with others. Reflect on your development as an emerging mentor. Reflect on your mentoring experiences, motivations, attitudes, and emotions, both positive and negative. Discuss your written reflection with your mentor.

Level 3: Working as a primary mentor

    • Practice mentoring in a variety of settings with mentees coming from different backgrounds. Keep a reflective journal of 5-10 meetings (re. educational approach, challenges, tensions, cross-cultural issues, authority style, coping strategies, etc.)
    • Experiment with different ways of formal mentoring (not just one-to-one).
    • Write up and evaluate 2-3 critical incidents in your mentoring practice. Discuss with your mentor.
    • Help others learn about formal mentoring.
    • Advocate for a formal mentoring program in your organization.
    • Having learned from your own professional and personal development journey, help others reflect on their unique contributions and their potential areas of growth in the workplace.
    • Participate in a coaching workshop.
    • Read a book on cross-cultural coaching/mentoring. Note your observations from the cultures you are familiar with. How can you apply this new knowledge to your mentoring? Consider how you might share what you have learned with others in your organization.
    • Read one book per year on mentoring/coaching/dialogue education/communication/intercultural studies. Share your insights with others in your context(s).
    • Create tools and/or teaching materials that can be used by others to support formal mentoring relationships. — We would be happy to share your work on this site so that many others may benefit from your creativity and expertise.

Level 4: Working as an experienced mentor who advises other mentors

    • Record and analyze a 30-min interaction between you as a mentor and one of your mentees. Reflect on what you can learn from the recording. Write a reflection on lessons learned and concrete changes you want to make. Support your arguments by using quotes from the recording.
    • Having learned from your own development journey as a mentor, publish your research and insights from your own context to make them more widely available.
    • Continue to create tools and/or teaching materials (especially in languages other than English) that can be used by others to support formal mentoring programs in intercultural settings. — We would be happy to share your work on this website so that many people may benefit from your creativity, wisdom, and expertise.
    • Lead a community of practice / Contribute in a community of practice on topics related to mentoring.
    • Ask one of your mentees to co-present or co-author with you.
    • Support the formal mentoring program in your organization. Be a champion for the initiative.
    • Facilitate mentor-training workshops in a variety of contexts.
    • Mentor other mentors. Help them have a bigger impact in their own contexts.

Source: mentoring-matters.org ~ Image: Canva Pro

Why Mentoring Is Important


Mentoring is not limited to one style, format or place. It can take place in a variety of spaces, such as the workplace or through academic institutions. Relationships can also be established through professional organizations. And some mentoring relationships occur informally amongst networks. Sometimes, mentorship is set up to support career growth and guidance. Sometimes, mentoring supports diversity and inclusion efforts. And sometimes, mentoring exposes young people to caring, involved role models.

But there’s no denying mentoring is important, and can make a powerful difference, providing important and honest feedback. It’s not only mentors and mentees who benefit from this collaborative knowledge-sharing relationship. Companies who initiate mentoring also see advantages when these relationships flourish. There’s a reason that a majority—71 percent—of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs.

Take a look at the ins and outs of mentoring, including what precisely a mentor does, what a mentee does, and why mentoring matters to a successful career, company culture, and beyond.

What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring allows people to learn from one another, providing a path to knowledge transfer. In the workplace, for instance, someone established in their career can share knowledge and insights, as well as offer guidance, to someone with less experience. In academic institutions, students can explore education and career possibilities with a mentor, while a recent graduate can get insight into how to chart a career path and connections for future employment. Mentoring at its core is the opportunity for people to learn from one another. It enables knowledge transfer between two or more people for the benefit of all.

Mentor Definition

There’s a wide range of things a mentor can offer a mentee. Mentors can listen, share advice, ask thought-provoking questions, and more, including:

      • Provides a sounding board: Mentors can listen to their mentees’ concerns and brainstorm ideas and suggestions about their future career. Mentors can also share feedback and response that might help crystalize a person’s path forward in a particular situation or in regards to a career trajectory.
      • Gives advice: Mentors directly offer recommendations. They can suggest professional development priorities, help mentees establish goals, and identify resources. Mentors can also be helpful in the interview or promotion process, offering feedback on resumes and cover letters, as well as tips for acing an interview.
      • Shares inspiration and encouragement: Peeling back the steps someone took in their career can be illuminating. Mentors share knowledge on both a small scale (the nitty-gritty of workplace successes) and a large scale (how to build a successful, fulfilling career). Mentors can also offer encouragement, acting as a cheerleader for a mentee’s goals and dreams.
      • Offers networking opportunities: A mentor can make introductions to people who can be helpful in a mentee’s career, share opportunities, and recommend events and stretch assignments that will expose a mentee to important information and connections.

Mentee Definition

The mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street. Mentees can provide feedback and new perspectives to mentors while helping them work on their leadership skills and growth. As with mentors, a mentee’s role will vary, but some core actions on the part of a mentee include:

      • Steering the relationship: Mentees should be clear on what they hope to get out of interactions and drive conversations and interactions. Establish the meeting times and meeting modes, and come up with questions, specific requests for advice, and proposed topics of conversation.
      • Being mindful: By being on time, prepared for meetings, and professional, mentees can show they value the time and efforts mentors are providing.
      • Taking and giving constructive feedback: Hearing about what you’re doing well is a lovely experience, but getting notes on what needs improvement or should be adjusted can be harder to take. Still, mentees should respond to feedback—both positive and negative—with openness, since this is ultimately useful information intended to help with growth and future success. Similarly, they should be prepared to give their mentors the same candid feedback. This assures that both parties are learning from each other.
      • Following through: After getting suggestions, recommendations, introductions, and so on, mentees should follow up with the appropriate actions, and be prepared to give updates at subsequent meetings. That is, if a mentor sends an intro email between a mentee and someone in their network, mentees should respond promptly and appropriately. This helps validate the work and effort on the part of the mentor and continues the good rapport within the mentoring relationship.

The Impact of Mentoring

There’s real ROI to the mentor and mentee relationship, for everyone involved. Here’s a brief look at the benefits.

Why Mentoring is Important for Mentors

      • Develop and refine skills: Mentors will learn to be organized, share information clearly, and guide someone else to grow personally and professionally. Mentors also build their acumen in leadership and management.
      • Give back: Lending a hand can feel gratifying and meaningful. Plus, it’s a big compliment to be someone’s source of wisdom.
      • See what’s next: The knowledge-sharing in this relationship goes in both directions. Not only do mentors get access to the concerns and priorities of younger workers, but they might get a hands-on look at new technology or ways of operating.

Why Mentoring is Important for Mentees

      • Gain support and knowledge: impactful mentoring provides mentees with advice, wisdom, and encouragement, as well as new skills and institutional knowledge.
      • Become more productive employees: Feedback and guidance from mentors can improve workplace performance.
      • Improve their career and earnings: Participating in mentoring can lead to a salary increase and promotions, according to one study, while another study pointed to an increase in job satisfaction.

Why Mentoring is Important for Organizations

      • Increase loyalty and decrease turnover: Mentoring can help increase retention. Deloitte notes that 68 percent of millennials with a mentor plan to stay with the organization for five years (compared to 32 percent of millennials who do not have a mentor).
      • Builds skills: Mentoring matters in building much-needed skills and knowledge. Employees are eager to grow on the job, so not only do companies gain the benefit of a more skilled workforce, but they provide workers with something they want.
      • Increases employee engagement: A Moving Ahead study found 82 percent believe that mentoring relationships help foster meaningful connections between mentors and mentees, across departments and the organization.
      • Builds company culture and loyalty: Mentoring can integrate employees with company culture and make employees feel invested in by the organization.

Benefits of Formal Mentoring Programs

By setting up checkpoints and structure, a formal mentorship program allows mentors and mentees to have a relationship that’s productive and beneficial to all involved. The structure and accountability provided in formal programs—such as defined goals, mentor/mentee training, and an established platform of communication—elevate the connection beyond the confines of informal mentoring. Plus, with a formal program in place, more mentorship relationships can flourish, particularly with people (employees and students) who are traditionally underserved by mentoring of an informal nature.

Mentoring is important in today’s hybrid workplace. And while the format or method of the relationship between mentor and mentee may have shifted, the fundamental goals and advantages remain the same. There’s a great power that can be unleashed when sharing knowledge and skills between those who want and need it most.

Why Mentoring Matters, and How to Get Started


Professional mentorships used to be the workplace norm, but today they’re hard to find, even though they matter more than ever. Here’s how to find one, and how to get the most from it.

My first desk had an inert hand grenade in one corner and a notebook in another.

As a public relations assistant to Kathy Hochul, the Erie County clerk at the time, my job was to make the office (and by extension, Ms. Hochul) look good. The grenade reminded me that it took decisive confidence to do that well. And the notebook contained advice on how to develop that, much of which I’m still learning.

When Ms. Hochul gave me my first real job, she also taught me how to function in an office. She coached me on how to make myself heard in a roomful of older, more experienced professionals. As I leaned over her shoulder, she edited the materials I wrote for her, honing and sharpening my voice. And when I left her congressional campaign before the election to take a job as a newspaper reporter, she championed my decision.

“I want the women that I mentor around me to see those possibilities, how they can make a difference when someday they’re in charge,” Ms. Hochul, now New York’s lieutenant governor, said. “I want them to have a more expansive view of their potential. And to me, mentoring is all about letting them see and then helping them find the path to get there.”

While mentoring benefits all participants, it is especially important for young women. A 2015 study from the University of California Haas School of Business found that women gained more social capital from affiliation with a high-status mentor than their male counterparts did. The Department of Labor reports that today, 57 percent of women participate in the workforce. As workforce demographics continue to change, encouraging mentors and mentees to seek one another out might be more important than ever.

Mentorship advances careers. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that people with mentors are more likely to get promotions. That’s no accident. Jenni Luke, chief executive of the national teen mentorship organization StepUp, knows that those relationships can help propel young women to success.

“When I go into a room full of people and I say, ‘Raise your hand if you’ve gotten your job through somebody,’ every hand goes up,” Ms. Luke said. “Every single person on earth has the social capital, and you want to use it with intentionality.”

When mid and senior-level employees choose to mentor someone newer to the workforce, they can boost people who may not otherwise have those opportunities and help level the playing field.

Many companies are “hiring in these kinds of closed networks,” Ms. Luke said. “And unless you’re willing to really understand that and open up your networks,” she added, “the network of folks coming into jobs continues to narrow.”

Mentorship also exposes both parties to new ideas and perspectives. Arlene Kaukus, the director for career services at the University at Buffalo, said she believed that was becoming more and more important, as workplace demographics continue to change.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2024 less than 60 percent of the workforce is likely to define itself as “white non-Hispanic.” Latinx people could comprise 20 percent of the labor force in 2024. The proportion of African-Americans in the workforce is also projected to rise, to 12.7 percent in 2024 from 12.1 percent in 2014, and the proportion of Asians to 6.6 percent in 2024 from 5.6 percent in 2014.

“The importance of being able to see things from different people’s points of view based on their life experience, their culture, their ethnicity, their gender, becomes even more important,” Ms. Kaukus said.

Ms. Luke emphasized that mentoring should not be paternalistic. “It’s very much reciprocal, and there’s so much to be learned from the younger generation,” she said. Both sides are “meeting different types of people, understanding different experiences, and really growing their own network of young, up-and-coming professionals to be able to support or to be able to offer opportunities.”

Ms. Kaukus, who also volunteers as a mentor to international students, said she also learned a lot from those she mentors. It affords mentors “an opportunity to reach back and continuously develop talent and payback for the wonderful extension of mentorship that perhaps they were granted at some point in their career,” she said. “I think that is a powerful motivator. And it’s also a powerful benefit for the mentor.”

While formal mentorships used to be de rigueur in the business world, they have fallen by the wayside. A Harvard Business School study on mentoring found that every professional over 40 could name a mentor, but only a few younger interviewees could. The solution: reimagining how employees find mentors, and how those relationships function.

Katherine Brodsky, a freelance journalist, and director of Random Minds PR, started a private mentoring group to help people feel connected to others at all stages of their careers. “Often, knowing how to get from Point A to Point B is mystifying, but when you see people who have succeeded in your field and get to learn about their journey, it takes the mystical element out of it,” she said.

In particular, seeking mentors outside your team at work can provide a “safe space” to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking a manager or someone to whom you report directly. That open, honest relationship can help people feel more supported both at work and, as Ms. Kaukus pointed out, in life.

Source: nytimes.com ~ By: Lizz Schumer ~ Image: Canva Pro

Newsletter, 8/23/22; Mentoring

Business Mentoring Increases Small Business Survival Rates

The data shows that mentored businesses were 12% more likely to remain in business after one year, compared to the national average. This supports existing research that shows entrepreneurs with access to a mentor are five times more likely to start a …

Mentoring doesn’t just help young professionals gain the experience and wisdom they need in the workforce, it can also increase the likelihood of small business success.

That’s according to a new survey from SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. The data shows that mentored businesses were 12% more likely to remain in business after one year, compared to the national average. This supports existing research that shows entrepreneurs with access to a mentor are five times more likely to start a business than those who do not have a mentor. READ MORE

Top Tips on Having a Mentor for your Small Business

Why should I have a Small Business Mentor?

You’re passionate about your business and love what you do, but the day-to-day running of a business is hard. It can also be a solitary job, with the stress of payroll, clients, and decisions about the next steps all on you.

One of the best ways to help yourself, and your business, is to get a business mentor, someone who has been there and done that to be your support.

A mentor is someone who can help guide you during your entrepreneurship journey. Mentors can help you in a host of ways, including by:

    • Providing perspective
    • Offering practical solutions
    • Encouraging you to keep going
    • Providing key connections

Not enough? Small business owners report higher revenue and increased growth after working with a mentor. READ MORE

You Need a Mentor. Here’s Where to Find One for Free

Mentors have a crucial asset new business owners lack — experience.

1. Mentors put statistics back on your side.

The survival rate of new businesses is understandably intimidating to entrepreneurs, but those numbers can change drastically when you add a mentor to the equation. According to a survey by 70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years. That’s double the rate of businesses that choose not to have a mentor.

New  owners often lack one fundamental thing — experience. It takes years upon years, and sometimes lots of money, to gain the business experience to run a successful company. Mentors give you the opportunity to draw on that experience right away — and for free.

Running or starting a business will never play out precisely as you planned. When you hit a roadblock, small or large, mentors with business experience likely have come across something similar before and know strategies to move forward. Harvard Business Review surveyed 45 CEOs with formal mentor relationships, and 84 percent said as a result, they have avoided costly mistakes and became proficient in their roles faster. In the same study, 69 percent said mentors helped them make better decisions, and 71 percent were certain company performance improved.  READ MORE

How to Develop a Mentoring Plan

A mentoring plan is a way to clarify and formalize a relationship between a mentor and mentee. Once you’ve been matched with your mentor or mentee, you can outline the specifics of your roles and define guidelines for the relationship, such as meeting frequency and location. Then, work together to describe goals and objectives. After you’ve established a plan, revisit it twice per year and adjust it as needed to maintain good progress.

PART 1. Establishing Roles and Guidelines

1) Take time to get to know each other before you begin working together. It’s fine to have the first meeting between you and your mentor or mentee be all about getting to know each other and this may even help to forge a positive relationship. Choose to meet at a designated time and place. Then, spend about 30-60 minutes in casual conversation. Ask getting-to-know-you questions of each other to establish a rapport. READ MORE
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