How to be a good mentee

5 min read | Jane Mcneill | Article | Career development Upskilling

Colleagues in a meeting

In order to fully experience the benefits of mentorship, you need to understand how to be a good mentee. Hays’ Jane McNeill offers advice on the steps you can take to ensure you make the most of this valuable opportunity. 

A good mentor can change your career for the better. They’ll share their knowledge and expertise, open doors, guide your upskilling, offer career advice and help you get ahead professionally. Their advice is invaluable and is given voluntarily, without expecting anything in return. But despite this, it’s common for people to think that it’s the mentor who shoulders the responsibility of ensuring the relationship works. 

In reality, a mentee has the more pivotal role to play. Why? Because they must make themselves ‘mentorable’. In other words, they must be willing to be open, honest, considerate and accepting, while taking ownership for arranging meetings, preparing appropriately and acting on advice. 

Yet according to a recent survey of ours, only 35% of more than 1,200 people we spoke to were confident that they know what’s expected of them when being mentored. 

Considering all the potential benefits of mentorship, a mentee really does have a greater obligation than the mentor to make the relationship work. 

So, how can you be an effective mentee? Here’s our advice. 


Six ways to be a good mentee 

1. Respect your mentor’s time: Your mentor is voluntarily giving up their time to pass on their skills and knowledge to help your career develop, so be flexible and accommodate their schedule when sending each meeting invite. Arrive a few minutes early to each appointment and always be thankful for their time. Understand that sometimes schedules change at the last minute – and if you are the one who needs to reschedule, try to give plenty of notice. 

2. Communicate your purpose: You need to be clear about what you want to achieve from a mentorship to avoid wasting each other’s time. Your mentor is not a mind reader, so set and discuss your specific objectives and then arrive at each meeting with questions or an agenda aligned to your overall goal. It may help to make a note of questions that come to mind throughout your working week that you could ask in your next meeting. 

3. Be prepared: Before every meeting with your mentor, prepare or collate relevant examples of your work. For example, if you’re asking your mentor for advice on report writing, bring along a draft report you are working on. This allows your mentor to provide relevant and practical advice. 

4. Use new skills: A mentor will provide you with useful knowledge, guidance and advice, which will only be beneficial if you use it. Don’t waste your mentor’s time – and your own – by failing to put into practice the new skills they’ve shared with you. 

5. Provide feedback: Mentors want to know that their time and effort is having a positive impact on you. After all, they’ve invested time in you that they could have spent elsewhere. Always share with your mentor the successes you’ve had following their guidance. 

6. Seek out multiple mentors: Finally, you can have more than one mentor simultaneously. After all, no one person is proficient in every skill or competency you want to master, so do not expect a mentor to provide guidance on topics outside their scope of expertise. Instead, have multiple mentors to cover all the areas you want to develop. 


Being a good mentee – what to remember 

It’s not your mentor’s responsibility to ensure that you get the most out of mentorship experience – it’s yours. Be clear in what you’d like from them, and be prepared for every meeting so that you don’t use up more of their time than necessary. Make sure that you follow their advice, and let them know how you are benefitting from their mentorship. 


About this author

Jane McNeill joined Hays in 1987 as a graduate trainee in their London head office after graduating with an MA (Hons) in Psychology from Edinburgh University. She began her career recruiting accountancy & finance professionals, before spending 11 years recruiting senior permanent professionals for London’s banking & finance sector. During this time she quickly progressed through management roles and in 1992 she was appointed Director after leading the London city business to a phenomenal post-recession recovery.

Jane transferred to Perth, Western Australia, in 2001. Over the next decade she grew Hays’ business in that state from a team of 15 to nearly 250 staff. She also established and managed Hays’ banking & financial services business.

She was appointed to the Hays Australia & New Zealand management board in 2007. Now based in Sydney, Jane oversees Hays’ operations in both NSW and WA. She is responsible for 400 staff located in two states that are separated by a five-hour flight and a three-hour time difference. At the same time, she retains her keen interest and passion in banking & financial services recruitment by adding national responsibility for Hays Banking and Hays Insurance to her remit.

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