5 actionable tips to make mentorships work out

Published Sept. 10, 2019

Bringing together a mentor and a mentee is hard, but it’s even harder to make sure that a mentorship can work out over a longer period time. Over the months, we’ve collected a few tips on how to make mentorships work out, and we hope you can learn from them.

5 actionable tips to make mentorships work out

Manage your expectations first

Finding a mentor is tempting, but before you even start, you have to think about what you’re going to expect from them, and clearly communicate that.

It’s a big difference whether you’re aiming for a promotion within the next year, and hope to have someone by your side, or you’re trying to get hired in a new industry within the next two months, and need hands-on support to do so.

There’s help for everyone, but you need to be clear about what you’re expecting, and what your goals are. What it takes to reach your goal might be obvious to you, but not so much to your future mentor.

Come up with a plan

The first thing you should do with a coach or mentor is come up with a detailed plan on what’s going to happen in the next few weeks or month, and what you’re looking to achieve with each other.

Ideally, this is combined with deadlines or at least a rough timeline, so that you have a reference on when certain goals should be reached.

A good method to put together a plan is to start with a rough draft of milestones, and to start planning out detailed goals and timelines once you get to that milestone.

Some things might need to be pushed around, and that leaves you with the most flexibility.

Establish a clear line of communication

Our #1 cancellation reason on MentorCruise? Bad communication. Once you’ve set your expectations on how close you need to work together, you need to come up with a clear line of communication for working together over the months.

A generic chat might be enough for that. E-Mails might be handy if you’re looking to give one or a few updates over the day. If you’re self-driven, maybe even a video call check-in once per week or once every other week is enough.

Quite interestingly, the best way to create good communication is… communication. Be sure to talk about what tools you’d be comfortable to use, and how you’d like to use them.

In our experience, the following lines of communication work well:

  • A chat you frequently visit, e.g. Slack or Telegram
  • E-Mails, especially for more complete, thoughtful and async communication across timezones
  • A video call, for example through Zoom or Hangouts

Stay in touch & check in

As the work towards your goal starts, it can be easy to just follow a plan and forget a bit about your mentor.

It’s the mentor’s job to make sure you’re staying on track, but it is also your responsibility to get back to your mentors with updates and check-ins.

Ideally, your mentor shouldn’t have to check in with you, because they’re already informed about your progress, and can react to it, should something be wrong.

Be honest and direct

This, again, taps into communication, but especially as you’re working with a coach or mentor, you need to be very direct about what you’re liking and disliking.

There is no value in sugarcoating something, if you see clear issues. A mentor, in first line, is there to help you, and if there is an obstacle there, you should communicate this quite clearly.

There’s a thin line between being direct and constructive, and being corrective, provocative or even rude though.

Consider the following – your mentor has repeatedly delayed your scheduled catchups, and you’re fearing about missing your goals because of that.

Corrective & Provocative: Hey Mark, I have repeatedly try to reach you, but you just won’t pick up!! This has been the third time this has happened, and I’m sick and tired of it!

Now, let’s look at another example.

Constructive: Hey Eli, unfortunately I haven’t been able to reach you tonight. I was hoping that we could talk about my work on X. We re-scheduled this meeting for the third time now, I was hoping that you could take our future sessions more seriously, as I have to block time for these sessions off work everytime we schedule them.

Even though it is tempting to blame and shame (and, in this case, it might be justified!), the second message will yield a far more productive response!

There is a lot more when it comes to making mentorship work out, and we’re excited to introduce some more of them. For the time being, take these first few tips and make the best out of them! We’ll be back soon!