Starting a mentoring relationship is exciting. But more often than not, the first meeting can be a little awkward as both of you get used to the roles of mentors and mentees. Don’t take it to heart. You’re at the start of a meaningful journey toward personal and professional growth.
This article will show you how to build an authentic connection when mentoring—whether you’re the mentor or mentee. From preparing for the first meeting to breaking the ice and having a successful mentoring relationship, let’s dive in!
A quick note on why you should trust our tips: At Together, we’ve built a mentorship platform to make launching impactful mentoring programs easy. In supporting hundreds of enterprises, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a successful program, and more importantly, what makes a successful mentoring relationship. These tips come from substantial science done on mentoring and our own expertise.
Tips for mentees reaching out to a mentor for the first time
If you are seeking a mentor on your own at your workplace, these tips may be too early for you. But we won’t leaving you hanging. Check out our guide on finding a mentor. It includes free resources to help you in your search.
However, if you’re paired with a mentor in a formal program, maximize this opportunity. You need to make a good first impression by being proactive. Reach out to your mentor and share how excited you are to be their mentee.
Here are some more tips on creating a good first impression on your mentor:
- Find out all you can about your mentor, relevant news, background and work
- Connect with them on a professional platform like LinkedIn
- Send a thank-you note to them for volunteering to be your mentor
- Ask for your mentor’s contact details and if applicable, that of his or her assistant
- Send your resume to your mentor, including a paragraph or two on your work and personal history
- Send your mentor an informal agenda for the meeting
- Confirm your meeting a day or two before the event
- Update your mentor of any changes before the meeting
Remember that your mentor’s role is to help you find answers to your goals and also guide you along the way. Make this easy for them by providing helpful information to get them started.
How to prepare to meet your mentor before your first meeting
Your first meeting with your mentor doesn’t have to be awkward. You can pave the way by reaching out and exchanging some correspondence before the first meeting. This will give you an idea of what to expect or at least break the ice.
No need to feel inferior or intimidated, keep your goals top of mind. Here are several tips to prepare you for your first meeting:
- Do your research on their background: Google your mentor to find out if they have an online presence, very few don’t. You can check platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. You can also check their profile on Together’s mentoring platform if your program is hosted on it. Finding out all you can about their background and skills will help you come up with initial conversations during the first meeting. It also shows you have a real interest in your mentor.
- Think about your goals and how your mentor’s unique experience can help you: having a clear goal of what you want and how your mentor can help is key. By doing some background checks, you have an idea of your mentor's skills and abilities. It helps to jot down what you want from the relationship and make sure your goals align with your mentor’s expertise. Also, make sure your goals are realistic.
- Be punctual to the meeting: create a good impression by being punctual. Your mentor is likely to be offended and with good reason if you are late. If you need to cancel the meeting because something came up, please do as soon as possible. Although it is best to avoid cancelling the first meeting.
- Have a list of questions ready and also send it beforehand: this will give your mentor an idea of what to expect during the meeting. It will also give them time to prepare their response. Here’s an awesome list of 29 questions to ask your mentor.
- Be ready to share information that will help your mentor understand your professional goals: Be willing to share information that will help your mentor understand you and what you aim to achieve. Sending a detailed profile before the meeting will make this easy.
How to connect with a mentor authentically when you meet
Developing a strong mentorship is similar to building a trusted friendship. It is cultivated over time and on the back of positive interactions with each other.
Here are some tips to kick off your relationship and build a meaningful connection:
- Show that you’re excited to learn from them: have a growth mindset which will create a genuine willingness to learn from your mentor. Tell them how excited you are to create an enthusiastic atmosphere.
- Be grateful and appreciative of their time: affirm that you are grateful for them going out of their way to help you. Try to show your appreciation by not wasting their time.
- Share with them why you’re excited to have them as a mentor specifically: this is where you demonstrate that you have done your homework. Mention a few of their achievement and how you hope they can help with yours.
- Ask them about their story before jumping into yours: ask about the experiences that have shaped them and keep them inspired. You will surely get some lessons there and create a genuine connection
- Be clear about what you’re hoping they can help you with: communicating your hopes and expectations will set the pace for future conversations. It will also ease pressure on both sides.
- Be yourself, and create a good impression: be honest in discussing your current achievement and future goals with your mentor. Resolve to be committed and not just pay lip service.
- Value your shared interests: having shared hobbies and discussing them will make the conversation more interesting and enjoyable. You will also bond that way.
- Choose calls over text: with phone calls, you can convey your message in a better manner. As opposed to text messages or emails that might be wrongly interpreted.
Having a genuine connection with your mentor will make your relationship productive. You can relax and share your concerns without fear or feelings of inadequacy. It is important to build that personal connection with your mentor.
How to set ground rules for your mentoring relationship
Every relationship has rules that set the ball rolling and ensures everyone knows and plays their part thoroughly. Come to an agreement on the topics that should and should not be discussed. Set the limit on what is appropriate and what isn’t. Know each other’s limits and respect them.
What are the ground rules in a mentoring relationship?
Ground rules in a mentoring relationship are expectations that mentors and mentees agree on. Both parties should communicate their roles and expectations clearly in other to achieve success in the relationship.
Examples of boundaries
- What is confidential?
- Where you will meet (in person or virtual; public or private)
- What is off-limits in discussions (family, relationships, salary, etc.)
- When to contact one another (over email, or a call; if it’s okay to contact them out of the blue or if they should wait until their predetermined meetings)
How to engage with a mentor over the course of your relationship
From having ground rules in place to investing time and energy, mentors and mentees can help create a strong bond and experience that will make a difference in the long run.
Show up prepared for each meeting
Prepare for each meeting with questions or issues that might have come up between your current meeting and the last one.
Act on the advice and guidance from your mentor
Implement the feedback you get from your mentor. This will encourage them to keep sharing resources with you.
Follow up on outcomes or progress with your mentor
Keep them informed of your progress no matter how small. It might lead to them sharing some helpful insights with you.
Recognize your mentor for their help
Appreciation can have at least one outcome, encouragement and the zeal to give more to the relationship.
Get to know your mentor personally
Be in regular contact with your mentor. Also, ask them about work and any challenges they might have. Even if you can’t help, show that you care and have them in mind too.
Be flexible, but try not to cancel mentoring sessions
It feels like an enormous commitment to say "let's meet every single Tuesday at 10 am for the next six months!"
Instead, meet three times per month, with the intention of locking in dates as you go. This gives each of you the opportunity to reschedule if something comes up. It’s consistent but flexible.
Share what you’re learning with your mentor
Be willing to share what you are learning. Your mentor might have tips to make the process faster or some experience they won’t mind sharing
A final word on building an authentic connection with your mentor
A common misconception about mentoring is that your mentor will be in charge of the sessions and tell you what to do. You can take initiative as the mentee while keeping in mind that the more you put in, the more you get out of the relationship. You can learn more about your role as a mentee in this handbook.
Creating an authentic connection in a mentorship can take your experience to a new level. Investing time and energy, and showing appreciation are some of the best ways to build an authentic connection in mentorship.