How to use the partnership

Suitable topics for discussion:

  • Interview techniques/application writing/CVs or other job acquisition tactics
  • Possible career directions or changes of direction
  • Retirement/redundancy or career break preparation
  • Starting your own business or beginning work as a consultant
  • Internal networking and gaining promotion

To ensure both the mentor and mentee gain as much as possible from the partnership, it is important to understand the limitations and boundaries. Download a sample agreement (Word, 22 KB) which you can each adapt to your own circumstances. It is suggested you both sigh this agreement and that it becomes a point of reference as the partnership develops.

The rest of this page is divided into two sections - one for the mentee and one for the mentor. It will probably help the partnership if you read the whole page, regardless of the role you play.

How to use but not abuse your mentor

  • Never ask your mentor to do something for you that you know you should or could do for yourself
    Whatever anyone says, there is no way you learn more from other peoples mistakes as you do from your own. By trying things out for yourself you will learn more and you can then discuss what went wrong with your mentor.

    You will often feel frustration that your mentor is not just giving you the answer to your dilemma or problem, but this is being done for your own good. However, if you genuinely have no idea how to go about something, make this clear to your mentor, otherwise the partnership could falter.

  • Don't ask too much of your mentor
    Your mentee is there to help you with career issues only. Do not try to discuss personal issues such as relationship or money problems. A trained counsellor or citizen's advice bureau advisor would be a suitable source of help for these issues.

    Your mentor has a life of their own and may not always be able to meet as often as you would like. Empathise with their commitments and be ready to dissolve the partnership if your needs become incompatible.

  • Treat what your mentor says to you with the same confidentiality that you would wish your mentor to treat your own confidences
    Never say "But my mentor said…" unless you are sure your mentor would not mind being quoted. This is especially important if your mentor is within the same company as you.
  • Don't be afraid to ask what you might feel are 'silly' questions
    What is said within the partnership is confidential so don't be afraid of appearing foolish or naïve. Your mentor is there to bounce ideas off, in a safe environment without fear of come back.
  • Use your mentor as a role model if you wish to, but do not try to replicate their career moves unless you are positive they overlap with your own
    At times of difficulty it is tempting to take an easy route and follow someone elses lead. However, unless you are sure you wish to follow an identical path you should still be careful to make your own choices.

How to use but not abuse your mentee

  • Never ever do something for your mentee that they could do or at least attempt themselves
    This will not help them learn anything.
  • Improve your communication skills
    Listen to the ways your mentee talks and expresses themselves. This could help you relate better to your own staff and colleagues of a similar age.

    Although not always the case, your mentee will probably be younger than you. In this case they might be up to date with the latest techniques in your area, learnt while at university. If you are within the same company it may also be interesting to have a direct link with the staff below you in the hierarchy. This may give you a different view of your company.

  • Try to avoid thinking of your mentee as your protégé
    You are not grooming a successor for your own role, nor do you wish to create a copy of yourself. While using your own experiences to guide your mentee, do not try to make decisions for them.