Mentoring relationship

How long should a mentoring relationship last?

In this article, you'll learn how long a mentoring relationship should usually be (although there's no hard and fast rule) and how to conclude your mentorship well.

Ryan Carruthers

October 11, 2022

When should a mentor and mentee decide that their relationship has run its course and they should shake hands, wish each other well, and go in their separate directions? 

There is no definitive answer to this question. However, the needs of the mentee often dictate the duration of support and value they glean from their mentor. Also, there are timeframes and best practices both mentors and mentees need to embrace to establish organization and rhythm. Be it six months or six years, the most important thing is the positive impact and growth that makes the mentoring relationship a success. 

This article will give mentees and mentors an idea of how long a mentoring relationship should last and what they should be doing to make the most of their time together.

How long is the average mentoring relationship?

On the Together mentoring platform, relationships usually last 3-6 months, because that is the slated duration for each program. 

Although regular relationships are often enduring and can last for years. If you want to have a valuable mentoring relationship, one or two trial meetings are important. Getting to know each other before committing to or addressing someone as a mentor is crucial in landing the perfect mentor for your professional needs. 

In our article on how to find a mentor, we share more helpful tips on landing the right mentor. 

What are the stages of a mentoring relationship?

Just as every human is unique, mentoring relationships are different too. No matter, four general phases are common to mentorships and understanding them before you start can be of immense benefit to your relationship. 

Phase 1 - Purpose

The first stage, termed “purpose,” is when a mentee realizes they need a mentor. Driven by genuine curiosity to learn and a desire for success, they start looking for an individual or mentorship program that can help them achieve this goal.

Phase 2 - Engagement

The engagement phase is the second stage in the four phases. It begins when a mentee finds a mentor. A hallmark of this phase is building and strengthening connections between both parties (mentors and mentees). 

Phase 3 - Growth

The third phase covers most of the duration of the relationship. It is the “growth” stage where the pair build their relationship further while working on achieving the set goals. The focus here is progress and meaningful growth. 

Phase 4 - Completion

The final stage (completion) also marks the end of the relationship. The mentorship naturally comes to an end when the mentee has achieved the desired goals with guidance from the mentor. 

The main point of any mentorship is to achieve personal or professional goals in less time, leveraging the experience, achievement and expertise of the mentor. However, ending the mentorship abruptly can leave mentees with missed opportunities. 

We have discussed more details on the four phases and their key indicator in our article on the 4 phases of mentoring relationships.

How do you know if the mentor or mentee isn’t right for you?

Having the right mentor can do magic for your professional and career development. However, even the best mentorships eventually run their course. 

You’d be doing your mentor and yourself a great disservice by staying in a relationship that is not serving your needs. If you have to move on in order to experience growth, don’t hesitate to take the steps. 

How do you end the relationship without burning bridges? Or know it is time to move on in the first place?

Mentorships should be a positive experience, but if you spot any of the following signs in your mentor, it is time to move on before things go south

  • Self-focused and takes every opportunity to talk about how they are better than you. There is nothing particularly bad about being self-focused, but the relationship is about the mentee, not the mentor. They should only discuss their achievements to encourage or guide you.
  • You are not getting the encouragement you need to progress. Or they don’t acknowledge your achievement as a form of encouraging you to do even better. You need to get off that ship.
  • They are always busy and constantly rescheduling meetings. It is understandable for mentors to be busy, but they also need to create time for the mentoring they agreed to.
  • One of the best qualities of a mentor is being a good listener. If they constantly dominate the conversation and you can hardly get a word in, you might want to end things. It is frustrating to remain in a relationship where you are not being heard.
  • Admitting to their past mistakes as a way for you to learn and avoid them is important. A mentor who paints a perfect picture of their life won’t get you far.
  • Has zero boundaries and shares too much. You want to keep things professional and not discuss issues that are deeply personal or paint other employees in a bad light. That is why it is important to create healthy boundaries at the start of your relationship. 
  • If a mentor constantly puts you down, you are in a toxic relationship that needs to end as soon as possible.
  • Your mentor should have a good sense of humour and offer helpful advice most of the time. Otherwise, it is time to say goodbye.

Connections are important in today’s workplace. While a mentoring relationship might not work out, there is no reason not to have a cordial, professional relationship with your former mentor moving forward. 

Keep the door open by offering professional assistance to return the time and effort you got from your mentor. No matter how good or bad, they have taught you some lessons and impacted you. You never know how you might encounter them again, so try not to burn bridges.

What should you be doing throughout the relationship?

Definitely, a mentor should help their mentee(s) grow their network, foster a positive mindset, encourage them to take risks, build critical skills and mutually beneficial relationships. 

However, to be an effective mentor, you must be grounded in your own career and have certain qualities such as positivity, emotional intelligence, communication skills, willingness to learn and teach and the right skills and experience your mentee needs. 

It is important for both mentors and mentees to prepare for their first meeting, set realistic goals and expectations and plan the logistics of subsequent meetups. It is also a great practice to have a clear agenda when setting up your mentoring sessions. Agendas can be discussion topics and vital questions both parties can ask. It saves time, keeps everyone on track and ensures you have a productive session. Each mentoring type can have different questions and ideas, which should not be set in stone. 

We have a blog post where we share mentoring activities you can try out depending on your type of mentoring relationship and no matter the stage you are in. 

Wrapping up a mentoring relationship professionally

Rather than end the relationship abruptly, think about how you can transition from a formal to informal mentorship or business relationship. Both parties should review the goals and progress to be sure all of it has been met. 

Ensure you don’t overlook an important milestone. Depending on how close you have gotten, discuss how to spend your remaining time together. You can plan a formal recognition or celebration to mark the end of the relationship.

Also, prepare for a final review where you discuss what you have both learned and achieved during the mentorship program. Here are some questions and ideas to facilitate the final mentor-mentee discussion and make it fulfilling rather than awkward. 

Reflecting on your relationship prepares the mentor and mentee for future relationships in different capacities. The mentor might want to take on a new mentee, and the former mentee may become a mentor too.

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