You've found a potential mentor to help you with business issues, and you have approached them to mentor you. What comes next? Now you need to establish the mentor/mentee relationship in a way that is manageable and beneficial for you both.

As a mentee, you are opening yourself up to constructive criticism and to receive insights, advice and contacts for your business. As you prepare for your initial meetings and conversations with your mentor, here are some things to consider.

1. Clearly articulate your goals for the relationship, for yourself and your mentor

Know what you are looking to get out of the connection. Maybe you need to work on specific skills, or maybe you are just looking for the kind of perspective and wisdom that only comes from experience. Let your mentor know your needs, and then set goals for the relationship from there. Keep in mind that they, too, may have expectations for the engagement, and you should be open to incorporating them into your plan.

While you are at it, set up expectations for how often you will meet, whether in person or online, and what other methods of communication work best for each of you. Start with a clear idea of what you will ask of your mentor to avoid discomfort later. Establishing these guidelines early on will lay the groundwork for the relationship to flourish naturally.

2. Be ready to act on the results of your new mentoring relationship

After you’ve met, do the follow-up that shows your mentor their time with you is well spent and that their guidance matters to you. Follow up if they connect you with another person or organization. If there is some good reason a connection can’t be made, at least be sure to let them know so that they can personally close the loop.

If your mentor suggests new practices for you to adopt as part of the advice they are providing, give it a shot, and let them know the outcomes. If you feel you’re unable to implement the ideas, be honest with your mentor – and yourself – as to why you can’t. This can provide topics to discuss in future conversations, and be a great learning experience for you both. A willingness to learn, adapt, and try new things will stand you in good stead as you chart a course for your business.

3. Be an open book with your mentor

Trust is paramount in a mentoring relationship, and while in the beginning your communications may be more formal or structured, as the relationship between you develops, that trust will become a critical foundation to open communications.

Honoring confidentiality is an essential part of establishing trust. Have a discussion about whether anything said between you is in confidence. Another part of trust is meeting commitments and expectations. If you are establishing a regular schedule for communication, make sure that you fulfill your end of the bargain. If you feel your mentor is not meeting theirs, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for clarification.

Share your professional news and updates with your mentor, especially if it’s been a while since you last met or spoke. They’ll want to hear about victories and challenges, so give them a chance to celebrate with you.

4. Show appreciation

A simple “thank you” goes a long way. You do not need to bend over backwards or send elaborate holiday gifts as an expression of gratitude. The actions you take regularly – being in touch to share your news, respecting your mentor’s time, and learning from their wisdom – do most of the work of showing how much you value their time.

Once you land a mentor, always remember that the mentor/mentee relationship is a two-way street and look for ways to be a good mentee. Your mentor will be glad to see you growing and developing competencies as your relationship matures. They may also look to you for your insights and assistance in areas that are new for them.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC