If you have ever worked with a mentor, you know what a rewarding experience it can be. A fruitful mentor-mentee relationship can skyrocket your career and effortlessly open doors that might have taken years of knocking on your own.
Mentor and mentee can be matched by an outside person responsible for the mentorship program. This is typically someone in the HR department or from an external organization specializing in mentorship. A good mentor should be open to sharing their experiences, prioritizing the mentorship, and giving credit to their mentee when applicable.
During a mentor meeting, a mentor and a mentee come together to discuss the mentee’s challenges and progress. The mentor is more experienced than the mentee – they don’t necessarily work in the same vertical or company.
In a mentor-mentee meeting, the mentor has chosen to take the mentee under their wings to help accelerate their career growth. They draw upon their experience in execution, networking, and work-life balance. The mentor can give advice and invite the mentee to reflect.
At the end of a mentor meeting, they decide upon actions the mentee will take before the next meeting.
It’s often not until you teach or mentor someone that you realize how far you’ve come. Having a mentee requires you to acknowledge your accomplishments and learn how to guide others. The latter is an essential skill regardless of your position. It also gives the satisfaction and a sense of purpose of being able to help someone.
The benefit of hosting a mentor meeting is that it provides a platform for exchanging with your mentee. Conversation over messages can be slow, and things can get lost in translation.
However, during a mentor meeting, you get to meet your mentee – virtually or in person. You can discuss what they have accomplished since last time, any challenges, learning needs, and the next steps. A successful mentor meeting leaves both parties motivated and ready to take on their tasks.
You can also share your ongoing projects and see if your mentee can help you.
While it’s ultimately up to you and your resources, a rule of thumb is to host a mentor meeting once a month.
More than that could be too time-consuming. It leaves the mentee with little time to integrate and come up with new questions and takes time from the already busy schedule of the mentor.
On the other hand, less than that reduces the impact of mentor meetings.
A tip to help the mentee become independent is to host monthly meetings for six months – and after that, upon request of the mentee.
As with all kinds of meetings, structure and preparation are critical to a successful mentor-mentee meeting. Wrapping it up afterward with a summary of what you covered and exchange of additional resources effectively seals the meeting.
Agree upon a time and date
If it’s on you as the mentor to book the meeting, it’s wise to give a few options to avoid back-and-forths. Maybe you have a booking system where the mentee can reserve a time slot. Ideally, you can keep this time and date for the coming meetings.
A successful mentor meeting starts well ahead of the set time and date. When you have agreed upon a time, send the invitation. If you know that this time will work for you, send a recurrent invitation on the same day for the coming few months.
The key is finding a cadence that works for both parties – maybe you will want to meet more often in the beginning or have some check-ins over Slack or email between sessions.
Request an agenda
Efficient meetings have a set agenda. The day before the mentor meeting, the mentee should send over a plan covering:
What they want to discuss
Any actions they didn’t take from last time, and why
Requesting a meeting agenda encourages the mentee to come prepared and reflect upon their progress for a more valuable meeting.
Reflect on your experience
Before the first meeting, take a few moments to review your career highlights and challenging moments. That way, you have a mental inventory to draw from during the mentor meeting. Read up on your mentee to see where their interests lie and prepare for what they may ask about and how you can personally relate.
Review their resume (Before the first meeting)
Before your first time together, have a look at their resume. Remember that the first meeting is a lot about building rapport and trust. Can you find some common denominators? Reviewing their CV helps see where their skills and interests lie.
Didn’t we just highlight the importance of an agenda? That’s correct – but even more important is to stay flexible and open to whatever comes up. Let the meeting flow in the direction that’s needed. Being human and understanding may be the best quality in a mentor.
Everyone is busy. It can be tempting to skip the socializing part and dive straight into the meat of the meeting. Remember that building rapport is crucial – it builds trust and helps your mentee to open up. If they don’t feel comfortable, chances are they will withhold what they’d really want support with.
Creating a connection is particularly important in the first session. Even if it takes time from valuable business discussions, you will both benefit in the long run.
Need inspiration? Check out these 50 ice-breaker questions!
Avoid too much small talk
Yes, we mentioned the importance of building rapport. But during your first meeting, or as you get to know each other, it might be tempting to fill each moment with small talk to avoid awkward silence. Get comfortable with silence and let the conversation flow toward relevant topics, rather than spending a substantial part of the session talking about irrelevant things.
Taking notes helps you to stay focused during the meeting. When you know you don’t have to remember every word, you can stay present and actively listen to your mentee.
Virtual meetings with collaborative note-taking make mentor meetings easier, and that's where Airgram helps. It integrates seamlessly with Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet and helps you host more efficient meetings. For mentor meetings, shared note-taking comes in handy – you and your mentee can write down actions simultaneously to save time.
Review actions from the last session
What did you agree upon during your last meeting together? Go through the actions and hold your mentee accountable. If they haven’t taken certain actions, ask them why. Do they need more support? More training? Maybe just a deeper explanation of something?
Tell them they can reach out between sessions for questions and support if applicable.
A meeting with a clear focus makes it easier to stay on track. Choosing direction should already have been done when your mentee sent over the agenda. However, it’s good to reiterate. Maybe something has come up since then?
There are two main approaches to choosing the focus:
Outcome-based – this approach focuses on the desired outcome and how to best achieve it
Exploration-based – if your mentee wants to know more about a topic or explore relevant strategies and systems
While the mentee chooses the topic they want to work on, the mentor can help decide what focus works best to explore that subject.
Based on the chosen focus, it’s time to set goals for the mentor and mentee meeting. What personal and professional goals is your mentee looking to achieve during the coming month? They may need your help to circle in on the goals and repurpose them if necessary. Make sure that the goals follow the SMART formula for easy monitoring:
Measurable, meaningful and motivational
Attainable and action-oriented
Realistic and results-oriented
Tangible and timely
Goals can be a huge motivational factor that excites your mentee. However, everyone is different. Some people may feel stressed by challenging goals that stretch them outside their comfort zone. As the mentor, you can motivate your mentee and encourage them to reach for intimidating goals. At the same time, you don’t want to overstretch.
We learn and grow the fastest through challenges. What hurdles has your mentee faced since last time? You may have some wisdom to share with them on how you went through something similar. Moving forward, how can they learn to navigate this type of situation?
Look at learnings
Ask what lessons and learnings your mentee has had since last time. If you have properly built rapport, they should be comfortable opening up at this stage. A mentee with a success mindset takes full responsibility for whatever has happened and is open and willing to evolve.
If they get defensive and come up with excuses, this will probably reverberate into their job and may even be the main thing holding them back! Conversely, if they don’t seem to care about situations that didn’t go as planned, explore how you can make them more motivated and responsible.
As the mentor, look at what you can do to help them see the learnings as a natural part of growth.
Reflect on progress
As important as covering the challenging parts is celebrating the wins! Reflect on their progress to help boost motivation and strengthen the feeling of purpose and contribution.
In the workplace, we tend to forget the positive parts and only give constructive feedback. Supporting your mentee in installing a culture of positive feedback and encouragement in their team can be an action item to work on.
Besides that, encourage the mentee to regularly appreciate how far they’ve come and pat themselves on the shoulder. This is especially important if they are a type A personality being hard on themselves. You can give your mentee homework to send over three things they are proud of having achieved by the end of each week.
Decide actions for next month
Once you’ve covered the actions from the last month, the key focus for this month, the challenges, lessons, and wins, it’s time to look forward. What activities will let your mentee put everything you’ve discussed into practice? Your role is to help them divide their big goals into bite-sized pieces and estimate how much is reasonable ahead of your next meeting.
Still, remember the M in the SMART formula for goals: motivational. Your mentee will be much more motivated if you paint the big picture and show how the actions they’ll take are contributing to the big goals for themselves and the business.
Book next meeting
Ideally, you have set a recurring meeting at the same time next month. If not, decide upon a new time to keep the momentum going!
As a mentor, it can be tempting to postpone mentor and mentee meetings during busy periods. Try to avoid rescheduling if possible. The mentorship will feel more relevant and meaningful if you show it’s a priority.
Have the mentee send a follow-up
After the mentor and mentee meeting, the mentee is responsible for sending a summary with key takeaways and actions for your next time together.
Respond to the follow-up
It’s a nice gesture to reply with at least a quick encouraging note. You may want to send relevant links or information related to what you covered in the session.
Pick a location (For physical meetings)
Clearly, this doesn’t apply if you’re working remotely – switching between Zoom and Google Meet isn’t that exotic. However, if you can meet in person, consider having the mentor meetings in a more informal location after the first meeting.
The first meeting should ideally be in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. After that, you can meet for a walk in the park or at a coffee shop.
Prepare some fun icebreaker questions
Icebreaker questions can be a fun and lighthearted way of getting to know each other during the first session. Pick a few that aren’t too daring and don’t take too much time to answer. “Would you rather” or “either/or” are fun and quick questions where the mentee gets to choose between two alternatives, and that can hopefully evoke laughter to break the ice.
The first mentor-mentee meeting should be dedicated to getting to know each other. In subsequent sessions, the choice of the topic during a mentor meeting should be directly tied to your goals. Here are some tips:
Communication is key no matter what industry you work in and your position. Simple in theory, it can be a challenging and complex topic to navigate. Getting advice on how to boost your communication skills and draw on your mentor’s experience and expertise in the subject can be an invaluable investment.
While everyone learns differently, chances are you have been matched with your mentor because you have things in common. Whether there’s a critical skill you’re looking to learn, or you want your mentor’s best tactics for quickly sifting through voluminous reports, learning procedures are an excellent topic for a mentor meeting.
There’s immense value in learning from someone else’s mistakes. That way, you don’t have to repeat them! Ask your mentor what they wish they would have known when starting or being where you are now. What advice would they give their younger self?
What they would have done differently
Describe a challenging situation or when something didn’t go as planned. Be candid and share your approach and line of thought. Ask your mentor how they would have managed the situation. Remember, this is a judgment-free zone – you’re here to learn!
What you can improve
If you work closely with your mentor, and they have an idea of how you show up on the daily, you can ask directly for their feedback.
How to tackle an ongoing challenge
If you are in a leadership position, and an employee keeps showing up late or forgetting to do things, consult your mentor on how they would have managed the situation.
Creating authentic connection
Depending on your personality, networking may or may not come naturally to you. There’s a way of making valuable business connections whether you’re an extrovert or prefer staying home. Your mentor can share experiences from networking, like how they got confident to network with the big bosses or nailed that elevator pitch.
How do you approach someone on platforms like LinkedIn? How do you write an email that gets that influential person’s attention? Your mentor has probably got some tested and proven tips to share.
Since the mentor-mentee relationship is professional, this may seem counterintuitive at first. But the right personal questions can build rapport and make you more comfortable being vulnerable and opening up about challenges.
How are you feeling?
What are you excited about?
What’s going on outside of your work right now?
How was your weekend?
What’s your biggest passion outside of work?
What’s a goal that you’re currently working toward?
Do you have any tips for achieving work/life balance?
Why did you choose this career/role?
What were some challenges you faced in your current position?
Can you recommend any networking groups or events?
What skills have been most beneficial to you?
What does a day at work look like for you?
What’s the most successful daily habit you have?
How can I approach a discussion about a promotion?
I’m underpaid compared to my peers. How do I ask for a raise?
If you were me, how would you have approached this situation?
Would you have accepted this new job offer?
Where do you think I can improve?
What could I have done differently in this situation to achieve a different outcome?
Do you have any professional development courses or programs to recommend?
I want to improve this skill. Do you have any books/podcasts/courses to recommend?
What skills would you advise me to focus on developing right now?
Who or what inspires you the most?
What are you most passionate about?
Who do you talk to about challenges at work?
What do you want to achieve through this mentorship?
Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
What is your dream job?
Why did you choose this company/role/field?
What motivates you?
Which people are your role models, and why?
What is your greatest challenge right now?
How can I best support you?
What skills would you like to learn during the coming months?
Is there anyone in my network to whom I can introduce you?
What does success look like to you?
If you could learn any skill, what would that be?
Have you ever quit a job? If so, why?
What are some things that you can control? (Often, we focus on what’s not working and how little power we have to change things – this question turns the tables)
If you were the mentor and I the mentee, what would you have told me?
What more can be true in this situation?
What is the worst thing that could happen if you do x?
What is the best thing that could happen?
Build rapport, check what’s working and take the pulse on how they’re feeling
What’s new and good?
How have you been since last time?
How was your day/weekend?
Set the main focus
To guide the direction of your time together
How can I best help you today?
What do you want to focus on? (a situation, challenge, exploring learning opportunities…)
Review actions from last time
Check what they executed and hold them accountable for what they didn’t do
How did you go with x?
Why didn’t you finish y?
Let them share what was difficult and why
What was the most challenging part?
Over to today’s topic – what do you find most challenging with it?
Create a plan
Explore how you can avoid these challenges moving forward
How can situation x be easier next time?
Who would you need support from?
Can I support you?
Create an action plan
Reflect on progress
It is important to focus on what’s working well!
What are you most proud of since last week?
What’s your main takeaway from our session today?
Actions for this month
Create a list of what you’ll accomplish – help your mentee break down big goals and estimate what’s reasonable
Action item 1
Action item 2…
A successful mentorship relationship is beneficial to both parties. The mentor gains recognition as an expert and role model. They also get the fulfillment from being helpful and contributing. They have the opportunity to reflect on their career and identify their successes, as well as where they are heading. As mentorship is a type of leadership, they’ll also practice their skills in that area.
The mentee gets help from someone who has been in their shoes – someone who understands the challenges and celebrates the wins.
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.