Guides for mentors

More about mentoring

“What if…?” Mentors’ FAQs

What if I can’t meet my mentee’s objectives?

It is not a failure on your part (nor theirs) if what you are able to offer as a mentor does not fit with your mentee’s expectations. In that case, you should honestly discuss this with your mentee and either work together to set different objectives or agree to end the mentoring relationship.

If the relationship ends, please encourage them to try approaching a different mentor. Both they and you will have a more positive result if you move on to a new mentoring relationship.

What if I can’t help my mentee with a specific issue?

As a mentor, you are not expected to know everything nor be able to deal with any issue.

York students have a comprehensive professional support network for everything from careers guidance and numeracy skills to physical and mental health support. Please direct them to access our support services for any issues you cannot or prefer not to assist with.

What if my mentee’s dreams are unrealistic?

Mentors can be particularly valuable in their role as a ‘critical friend’, gently challenging mentees’ assumptions. So if you are comfortable with addressing this issue, please do so. However, it is best to avoid directly telling the mentee they ‘can’t’ reach their goal. Instead, explore some of the challenges that will face with them and encourage them to think about alternative options.

If a mentee has unrealistic career goals, it is a good idea to suggest they book an appointment with Careers and Placements.

What if my mentee is not ready for a mentoring relationship?

Sometimes mentees are not in a position to get the most out of being mentored by you. This may be because they are not prepared to think seriously about their career yet, or due to more practical issues like the presence of a language barrier.

In this situation, you should feel free to end the mentoring relationship so you have more time to support others who are ready. If possible, try to suggest how the mentee could be better placed for their next mentoring relationship. For example, you could suggest that they wait until they have a clearer idea of their goals before contacting someone else, or that they explore whether a mentor is available who speaks their first language.

What if my mentee wants more time than I can give?

Have an honest conversation with the mentee about the demands on your time and give clear guidance on what level of contact is manageable for you. Remember that student life is often less scheduled and routine-based than working life, so it is likely your mentee is simply unaware that they are asking for an unreasonable amount of your time.

A good way to manage your mentee’s expectations might be to establish a schedule for your mentoring contact. For example, you could agree to reply to their emails on a specific day each week, or schedule in a recurring appointment for a phone or Skype conversation.

What if my mentee is not keeping in contact with me?

Regularity is an important feature of successful mentoring relationships. If contact with your mentee is too infrequent for them to make meaningful progress, you should have an honest conversation to express your concern.

You may find that formalising the mentoring process helps to keep it on track (e.g. by setting regular days on which you contact each other, or agreeing deadlines for certain objectives to be met).

Ultimately, if the mentoring relationship is being neglected by the mentee and they have failed to respond to your requests for a discussion, you should feel free to end the relationship. However, be aware that students are sometimes out of contact for long periods between University terms, so try to give them a few weeks to respond to you.

What if I don’t get along with my mentee?

Mentoring is like any other kind of interpersonal relationship – sometimes it simply does not work. In that case, it is in the best interests of your mentee for you to end the relationship, so that they are free to approach another mentor. Tactfully tell the student that you do not feel you are the right mentor for them and encourage them to approach another mentor.

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