7 Tips to *Actually* Mentor and be Mentored (Instead of Just Trading Emails)

Two women networking


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Dana Levin-Robinson142
CEO and Co-Founder @Upfront

We are often told to find mentors, but rarely does anyone outline how to manage that relationship. One of the best parts about my job is being asked for coffee by women who are recent grads, entering tech, or making a career transition. I am very upfront about how  tough it was for me to transition into my industry, and helping others to do the same in a smoother way is extremely rewarding. 

Oftentimes, I find women are too shy or scared to ask someone directly for help, while most men I know wouldn’t think twice about reaching out to ask for an introduction to an old college friend that I haven’t seen in 10 years. To close this attitude gap and make meetings like this more productive for the mentee and more efficient for mentors like myself, I’ve begun to adopt the below new rules:

For mentors:

  • Within the first five minutes of the meeting, ask the mentee what their goal is, both from your meeting and from the relationship. Is it to move to a new job? Receive advice on a difficult work situation? Expand their network? Change careers? I often find myself in an hour-long conversation without understanding the mentee’s ultimate goal, which won’t result in any real impact.

  • If she looking for a new job, explain that you cannot promise results, but can make introductions. Nobody expects you to be a magician; an introduction or an alert to an open position is often all someone needs to get started.

  • The double opt-in is mandatory; it’s critical to ensure whomever you are making the introduction to is comfortable with starting that relationship. Send a first email to the person you want to make the introduction to and if he or she approves, then send a new second email chain to both parties.

  • Make sure that you actually do what you say you will do within a week. Write those introductory emails, send the links to the groups or articles you mentioned, and let the mentee know you did so. Mentees are often too polite to follow up.

For mentees:

  • Clarify what you want to get out of the meeting. Mentors are often asked for their time and help from a lot of different sources, but few are given a goal or specific question. Don’t worry about seeming blunt or rude; you are helping guide your mentorship in a way that is beneficial to you and is respectful of your mentor’s schedule.

  • Do some research beforehand. If you’re looking for a new job, it’s helpful to have a list of companies or roles that you’re interested in. For example, mentees often share their interest in healthcare or marketing, but both of those have so many sub-specialties and guiding someone to the right place is tricky. Even a list of five to ten companies will be helpful to for your mentor to know whom to introduce you to.

  • Suggest a follow up meeting in a month to recap your results, what you’ve learned, and updates on your goals. Your mentor will appreciate knowing you followed up on their recommendations, and you’ll begin establishing a more permanent, long-term relationship.

Do you have any tips for how you’ve made mentor-mentee relationships more actionable? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

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