Mentoring: What to Expect

You are free to determine your own partnership and the process for managing the relationship. The arrangement can be as formal or informal as you like. In setting up the relationship, think about and discuss the questions outlined in the What is Mentoring? page. Consider what you both want to get out of the relationship and how you can do this best. Our optional Mentoring Agreement can help you to outline goals and set boundaries.

Mentoring relationships may involve:

  • General discussions about IA issues, how tos and ideas
  • The mentor acting as a career guide, providing suggestions and feedback for your longer term career
  • The mentor as a sounding board /reality check for ideas about projects and goals
  • Sample projects or exercises that the mentor can assign and review
  • Projects the protégé is working on that the mentor can review (Be sure to discuss whether a Non-Disclosure Agreement is required)
  • Attending conferences, trade shows and local group events together

Elements of the Relationship

A healthy mentoring partnership, like any other relationship, involves certain personal expectations as well:

  • A level of commitment: It is essential that both parties have a realistic sense of the time commitment that each expects from the other before they begin to work together. The time commitment may need to be adjusted as the relationship develops, but both mentor and protégé must be willing to put in appropriate amounts of time and effort.
  • Shared areas of interest: protégés' skills and experience levels will vary, as well as his or her interests and goals. The mentor should discuss areas of interest with the protégé before working with him or her.
  • Balanced expectations: Remember to discuss up-front what each of you hopes to gain from the relationship
  • A mutually respectful relationship: Mentors and protégés must have a willingness to consider each other's viewpoints and communication styles. Remember to stay within the boundaries you set regarding time commitment, hours of contact, schedule/deadlines, etc. Mentoring does not run one way only. Mentors and protégés will learn from each other.
  • Open, two-way communication: Both mentor and protégé should be active partners in the relationship, and both should feel free to discuss the progress of the relationship.
  • A certain level of conflict: You may have different ideas about how to approach a specific problem or project. Recognize mistakes and conflict as part of learning. Accept that the protégés' decisions are ultimately his or her own to make.

What Not to Expect

Based on comments we have received from participants in our program, we have outlined a few things you should not expect from mentoring.

  • Don't expect the first person you contact to be a perfect fit. Mentoring is a personal relationship. Both the mentor and the protégé have individual goals for a mentoring commitment. As in any relationship, the goals and philosophies of both parties occasionally do not mesh well. If you do not feel that it is working out, talk it over and see if anything can be done. Then, feel free to look for another mentor or protégé.
  • Don't expect immediate results: It takes time to develop a mentoring relationship. Getting to know a person is a gradual process. Sometimes a protégé is shy, awkward or embarrassed about bringing up a specific issue and needs time to approach a mentor about it. Also, schedules can get tight at times and make it difficult to keep in regular contact. Keep a positive attitude and keep communication open.
  • Don't expect your protégé to work for you for free. At times it may be desirable for a protégé to work on a specific assignment to learn or develop a skill. In most cases, it is best if the task is a sample assignment, rather than a client project. If you feel comfortable giving your protégé an assignment related to a fee-based project you are working on, we suggest offering a stipend or some other form of compensation and don't forget any non-disclosure details.
  • Don't expect your mentor to give you a job. While some mentoring relationships can lead to paid work, expecting your mentor to make job offer is overstepping the boundaries of the relationship. A mentor can be a valuable resource for introductions and job leads. Your mentor is there to help and teach, not to hire.

This page was last modified on November 15, 2009 06:09 PM.