5 Tips for Being an Exceptional Mentee: Maximizing Your Mentorship Relationship

In a previous role, I was regularly tapped to mentor people from across the company. The value of mentorship is undeniable—it improves retention rates, employee engagement, chances for promotion, and the earning potential for both the mentor and mentee.  

I enjoy being a mentor, but not all mentorship relationships are equal. The quality of the mentorship hinges on how the mentee manages the relationship. Let me repeat that – the mentee has the responsibility to manage the mentorship. 

One of my worst mentorship experiences was with a young professional in a different time zone. Their leader had asked me to be their mentor and I agreed. We established a schedule and set up calls. Since they were in a different time zone, I needed to be at the office extra early to be ready and present. (This was back in the day when we all had to be in the office every day!) Unfortunately, my mentee only showed up for the first call and no-showed the next two calls.  

I emailed this person after each no-show and got an apology. But nothing before either call to let me know about an emergency or change of plans. After the second no-show, I ended the mentorship and shared my experience with their leader. What was an opportunity turned into a career-limiting situation.

By not taking the mentorship seriously, they burned the professional bridge they were trying to build and damaged their relationship with their boss.  

I share this story to illustrate the importance of taking your role as a mentee seriously. The mentor is giving you their time, but it’s up to you to utilize it.  

So, how can you be a good mentee in your mentorship relationship?  

1. Take ownership of the planning.

A mentorship is a professional opportunity and should be treated as such. This means taking the initiative, including setting up meetings, creating agendas, and defining goals. By doing this, you’ll showcase your professionalism while also respecting your mentor’s time.  

2. Stay consistent.

A leader may get frustrated by their mentee if they’re not consistent with meetings, cancel, or move them frequently. Being a mentor is rewarding when it goes well, but it starts to feel like an unnecessary burden when the mentee is inconsistent.  

Before pursuing a mentorship, make sure you have the time and energy to fully engage. It’s far better to remain unknown to a leader than to have earned a bad reputation.  

3. Have clearly defined goals.  

When looking for a mentor, your chances for success will increase when you have clearly defined goals. When I’ve been approached to become someone’s mentor, I’m much more likely to engage when I clearly understand the value they are looking for.  

Mentors will want to ensure they have the skills and experience to help you. Just because they may be in a more senior position, doesn’t mean they are an expert in the skill you plan to build. For example, saying something like “I need help writing reports” isn’t enough. This is a good start—but you need to get more specific. Instead, a goal could be “I need help making my reports more impactful for the leadership team.” 

4. Set a timeframe. 

When approaching a mentor, you should have a goal with a clear start and end point. Most mentorship relationships last for about 6 months to a year—it should not be for an indefinite amount of time. I had a mentorship relationship that lasted multiple years, but the goals were redefined regularly. As we completed the purpose of the mentorship, I knew I had more to learn from her. So, as we wrapped up one goal, I would ask her to mentor me in a new area. We then would define a timeframe for that. She was the same mentor, but it was a new mentorship. 

So, as you approach a mentor, think about how much time you’ll need with them. Like in our example, if your goal is to create more digestible reports for greater impact, you may only need 3 months. If your goal is to be better at talent development and you’re new to managing people, asking for a year of guidance makes sense. When reaching out to potential mentors, include your specific goal and time frame in your request.  

5. Keep focused.

Making and sharing an agenda with your mentor shows that you’re taking it seriously. Putting that agenda in the meeting invite in advance of the session is ideal, so your mentor knows what the plan is. It can also give them time to grab examples or resources to show you. It doesn’t need to be detailed – even saying, “Today I want to focus on how to pull data from this database,” gives your mentor enough information for the session. As the mentee, you should also prepare questions in advance to start the conversation and make sure you cover the important pieces.  

Also, be mindful not to use sessions as “therapy” rather than an educational opportunity. Your mentor is there to support your career goals, not a person to complain to.  

In conclusion—find a mentor and, when you’re ready, be a mentor. In your company, in a social networking group you’re part of, or via your friend group.  

Of course, anything worth doing is worth doing right. By following the tips above, you’ll be more likely to land a mentor and keep them.  

If you have any questions about being a mentee, mentor, or bringing a mentorship program to your company, please do not hesitate to contact us.


  • Michelle Rakshys, VP of Learning and Development has over 20 years of corporate leadership in business operations, diversity and inclusion, product and engineering, management, and marketing.