Guides for mentors

More about mentoring

Being a great mentor

Your style of mentoring should reflect your own personality, interests and abilities, as well as those of your mentee. There is no template for being a great mentor. However, you may find the advice on this page useful as you craft your own mentoring approach.

Let the mentee take the lead

We expect students to take the initiative and drive the mentoring relationship themselves. So encourage your mentee to do that. Ask them what they want from mentoring and what they hope to achieve. Be a guide, not a supervisor.

You should not have to chase your mentee nor put in more effort than them to maintain contact. Let them share responsibility for making your mentoring relationship a success.

Set objectives together

Mentoring is usually more effective when it has a clear set of goals that it can be directed towards, especially early in the relationship. Work together with your mentee at the beginning of your contact to define some SMART objectives. Encourage them to make a simple plan for working towards those objectives.

If you do define objectives, make sure you review them together (ideally within 3–6 months). Be sure to acknowledge what you have achieved together and what the next steps should be.

Encourage them to reflect

Often a mentee thinks they need specific, practical help towards a predetermined goal, but really would benefit from revisiting their assumptions and thinking more about the ‘big picture’ of their life.

Encourage your mentee to be open-minded and to reflect on their more basic preconceptions about their future:

  • What do they really want from their career?
  • What do they want their daily life to be like?
  • Why do they want what they want?

Be a critical friend

A key part of mentoring is being a ‘critical friend’ – being able to tactfully but honestly talk to your mentee about an issue, such as unrealistic expectations or changes that need to be made.

We encourage you to address issues with your mentee as a critical friend, but do so in a tactful and constructive way. For example, if their career plans are unrealistic, openly discuss the challenges they face rather than directly telling them they ‘can’t’ do what they planned.

Do not worry if you feel uncomfortable addressing an issue with your mentee. In such cases, direct them to us at the University so that a careers professional can work with the student.

Encourage them to access more help

You do not need to be an endless source of information and guidance for your mentee. All York students have access to specialist support with careers and skills development as well as other issues such as finance and housing. Please encourage them to ask for help if they need it – see Support for students for information on what is available.

Key Information

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