What Is a Mentoring Relationship? (Plus How to Build One)

Updated 16 December 2022

A mentorship program can be an effective way to train junior employees, create future leaders and ensure knowledge transfer. It can help both the mentor and the mentee grow personally and professionally. Knowing how a mentor-mentee relationship works can help you build a successful relationship with your mentor or mentee. In this article, we define a mentoring relationship, discuss its different types, explain its benefits and share how you can build an effective relationship as a mentor and mentee.

Related: What Is Mentoring at the Workplace? With Benefits and Tips

What is a mentoring relationship?

A mentoring relationship is a professional agreement generally between a senior leader with many years of experience and a junior employee with limited expertise. In this relationship, the mentor acts as a guide and coach to train junior employees. They offer advice and training on skill enhancement, career development and day-to-day solutions to workplace problems. Mentees are learners who take guidance and support from more experienced leaders to improve their skills and career.

The goal of a mentor-mentee relationship is to help the mentee accomplish personal or professional goals. Mentorships can have long- or short-term goals or be formal or informal, depending on the desired outcomes of the agreement. If the mentor and the mentee belong to the same organisation, it can be easier to accomplish certain professional progression goals and meet regularly, but this isn't necessary for the relationship to be effective.

Related: What Is a Mentor and How Can It Improve Your Career?

How to build a successful mentoring relationship

Here are tips on how mentors and mentees can build a successful relationship to ensure professional growth and success:


Here are steps and tips mentees can take to have a productive and professional relationship with mentors:

  1. Define learning goals. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound or SMART professional goals with the mentor. Having clearly defined goals can help the mentor create a personalised learning experience, provide appropriate support and measure progress effectively.

  2. Create a schedule. Decide on a mutually convenient schedule to hold meetings and discussions periodically. Similarly, select a channel of communication that allows everyone to respond timely.

  3. Build trust. To benefit from the mentor's knowledge and experience, cultivate trust and respect in the relationship. This is possible by displaying genuine interest, asking questions, demonstrating commitment, applying new skills, asking for feedback, accepting advice and being mindful of their time.

  4. Prepare before the meeting. One effective way to build trust and show respect for the mentor is to prepare adequately for upcoming discussions. Come to meetings after studying or researching specific topics, collecting ideas and questions and finishing all tasks assigned in the previous session.

  5. Respect professional boundaries. Respect the boundary of the mentor by reaching out during the times mutually agreed upon. Remember, the mentor has other professional and personal commitments besides providing guidance.

  6. Express gratitude. Make sure to express appreciation through words and actions. After mastering certain skills or achieving a professional goal, give them credit and appreciate the support they provided.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask a Mentor (Definition and Importance)


Mentors can follow these steps to cultivate a respectful and effective professional relationship with mentees:

  1. Set the right expectations. Clarify expectations to ensure that the mentee obtains a realistic idea of what they can gain. Also, discuss the end goal of the relationship to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of what to achieve.

  2. Get to know the mentee. During the initial stage of the relationship, spend time getting to know the mentee on a personal and professional level. This can help identify their goals, motivation and preferred learning approaches.

  3. Listen attentively. While it's true that a mentor shares their knowledge and guidance, it's equally important to listen to the mentee and understand what they want. If possible, allocate some time at the end of each meeting to get feedback and updates from mentees to build a productive relationship.

  4. Offer objective and earnest feedback. Give the mentee constructive criticism on how they can improve without making personal remarks. Even when providing harsh feedback, remember to keep the approach honest and focus on helping the learner improve.

  5. Learn together. There are many things that senior leaders can learn from junior employees. Take this opportunity to enhance existing skills and knowledge, learn new industry trends and think of innovative business solutions.

  6. Admit mistakes and celebrate successes. It's possible for the mentor to make mistakes or face challenges while mentoring. When this happens, accept these shortcomings openly and also celebrate the progress and achievements made together.

Types of mentorship

Depending on the objective and participants, mentorship can take several forms:

  • Career mentoring: Career mentoring aims to help individuals learn new skills, progress in their careers or find a role that matches their interests. Usually, the mentor and mentee meet regularly to discuss how the mentee can enhance their abilities, improve their work performance and look for suitable jobs.

  • Leadership mentoring: Leadership mentoring typically occurs with senior company leaders as mentors and focuses on developing future leaders and managers. Typically, individuals identified as high-potential employees are the mentees in this form of mentorship.

  • Peer mentoring: When people working at an identical designation guide each other by exchanging knowledge and feedback, it's a form of peer mentoring. This mentoring type usually occurs with employees working in the same team or department.

  • Diversity mentoring: Diversity mentoring includes nurturing the talent of specific employees the company wants to target for development and retention. Organisations can focus on any characteristic as per their talent or business goals.

  • Reverse mentoring: Many workplaces have reverse mentoring programs, where younger employees become mentors for more experienced employees. This is usually to help senior employees get acquainted with digital tools and technologies.

  • Group mentoring: In a group mentorship, one mentor guides several individuals simultaneously. Generally, very senior leaders with significant experience get this responsibility.

  • Mentoring circles: Mentoring circles comprise many people, typically five to eight, who support each other's learning and development journey. These individuals may or may not be from the same company.

Related: What Is a Business Mentor? (With Benefits and Tips)

Benefits of a mentoring relationship

A mentorship can be beneficial for both the mentor and the mentee:

For the mentor

Becoming a mentor can be a significant professional accomplishment for managers and leaders. Here are some advantages:

  • Recognition: Assuming the role of a mentor is often a recognition of the leader's vast experience and experience. This can become a prominent milestone in the leader's professional career and add to their qualifications.

  • Leadership development: Mentorship can be an excellent way to further develop niche leadership skills, such as training, giving feedback and interpersonal relationship building. Being a mentor can also help leaders qualify for other senior roles within the company.

  • Confidence: Being able to effectively mentor someone else and ensure their skill development can boost the mentor's confidence. This confidence can help improve the professional and personal self-worth of the mentor.

  • Growth: Mentoring and guiding a junior colleague can help senior leaders update their skills and learn new abilities. In these relationships, mentors also learn significantly from their mentees, gain new perspectives and expand their network.

Related: How to Find a Mentor: A Step-By-Step Guide with Tips

For the mentee

For the learner, a mentor can provide valuable support for career advancement. Here's how mentees benefit from this relationship:

  • Skill development: Learning under the supervision of an experienced mentor can help people gain new skills and apply them in the workplace. Mentors offer valuable insights, knowledge and suggestions based on their experience, which can expedite the learning process for the mentee.

  • Accountability: A mentorship creates more accountability from the learner as mentors become answerable to someone more skilled than them. This can help set realistic goals, track progress, improve the commitment and focus of the learner and increase the chances of effectively learning new skills.

  • Regular feedback and support: Mentors provide learners with constant guidance and feedback on how to develop skills and grow. This personalised feedback can be essential for the learner to understand how to improve and advance professionally.

  • Exposure: A mentor can help junior employees get professional exposure and visibility. They also enable learners to build valuable professional connections and introduce them to other industry leaders.

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