A mentoring relationship can be valuable for both the mentor and the mentee. In the best-case scenarios, you’ll learn and grow together.
Sometimes, especially as the relationship is getting off the ground, you may struggle for things to say and ways to spend your time. You’ll discuss the mentee’s goals, of course, and ask each other questions. But if you’re looking for more productive ways to fill your time and spark conversation, what are your options?
Here are 15 mentor-mentee activities to spark conversation and help your professional development.
Is there a professional event or speaker who relates to your industry and might interest both the mentor and mentee? Perhaps a seminar that could spark your curiosity? Attend it together and debrief on what you’ve learned afterward.
Perhaps there’s an important book that could help with the mentee’s growth. It can be nonfiction or fiction — even novels can relate to job growth, skills and frustrations in the workplace. Assign a book to read in between sessions and then discuss what you’ve read when you reconvene and how it relates to and can help the mentee’s career.
A change of scenery can make your sessions and discussions more lively. Visit a museum or other attraction to make your time together a little more interesting. Just pick a setting where you’ll still be able to cover the material you need to discuss.
A random “just thinking of you” note or letter of encouragement can do wonders for a mentee’s self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be when your mentee has a huge accomplishment like a promotion — even something as small as a project well done or initiating a tough conversation with her boss warrants a friendly “Great job” note. Or, if she needs an extra push, send her a “You can do it”-type note.
By the same token, a mentee can show her mentor how much she values her help by putting it down in writing. A “Thanks for all you do” note will make a mentor feel truly appreciated.
Remember when you were in school and it was always exciting when the teacher said you could have class outside? As with visiting a local attraction, a simple change of venue can spark learning and insights, helping you achieve more together.
It’s not just the mentee who has career goals. Designate some time to write out the things you each want to accomplish and do in your careers and share your bucket lists with one another. They can be lofty or small — whatever you want to do.
It doesn’t even have to be an activity related to your career. Whether you’re reading to kids or delivering meals to the homeless, this is a great way to spend time together and nurture your relationship — all while doing meaningful work in your community.
Mentors can introduce mentees to people who might be able to help them grow in their careers, too. This is a good way to get her feet wet before attending a more formal, higher-stakes networking event. This way, the mentor can coach the mentee beforehand and give her tips based on her knowledge of the individuals, as well as observe how she interacts with them and offer feedback.
Podcasts are a wealth of information and advice. If you’re a mentor, find a podcast that’s relevant to your mentee, her career and her aspirations. There are plenty that deal with careers directly — Accidental Creative and The School of Greatness, for example — while others tell inspiring stories that may not relate directly but offer plenty of wisdom on being a fallible human being. Try Invisibilia and StoryCorps.
Is the mentee dealing with a challenging situation at work? The mentor can help her through it by playing the role of the other person involved, such as a demanding boss or a difficult colleague. Role-playing with help her find solutions and practice having tough conversations at work.
By that, I mean actually draw a picture of what you want your life to look like — and then visually depict the path on how to get there. While it should largely be career-focused, it’s okay to include other aspects of your life, such as having kids.
Not a book-length biography, of course — just the blurb that would appear on the book jacket of your novel. This can help you visualize your goals and what you hope to achieve in your lifetime.
What’s a topic that sparks your interest? Something about which you consider yourself an expert? Use your future “TED Talk” as a jumping-off point to do a deep dive into a subject that makes you curious and explore that passion further.
While it can become counterproductive to use your sessions to debate hot-button issues, news topics often relate to and impact your career. Mentors and mentees can use headlines as a springboard for discussing the goings-on in their industry and how the mentee can work and thrive in the current climate. The mentor might even assign her to bring in one news clip per meeting to explore how it impacts her career.
Like the Reddit forums, AMA sessions can be a time for the mentee to ask her mentor any career-related questions. She might ask about the mentor’s own story and path, probe her for advice and so on.
Mentoring sessions don’t have to be limited to discussions. Trying out new venues, doing activities together and covering new topics can help keep the mentor and mentee’s time together lively and encourage them both to grow in their career and develop a strong professional relationship.