For the Mentee or Protege

Mentoring is just-in-time help, insight into issues, and the sharing of expertise, values, skills, and perspectives. Mentors function as a catalyst—an agent that provokes a reaction that might not otherwise have taken place or speeds up a reaction that might have taken place in the future.

Resources for the Mentee or Protégé

Career Planning

Mentoring should be one part of a larger process, that of career planning. Career planning is essential for all professionals, whether they anticipate a technical or managerial track to their careers. The development of a specific professional development plan can be a part of determining the direction of your career.

How to Find a Mentor

The first step in finding a mentor is to identify your mentoring needs. If you have a career plan, you might have already identified specific areas you would like to develop. Another place to start is to look at the mentoring functions table. Using this table, you can identify the type of mentoring you believe is most relevant to you at this time.

Identifying the individuals who might be your mentor involves reaching out to others within your organization and profession. If through your career development plan you have identified a specific need for coaching in a skill area, you might reach out to those within your organization that have that skill or knowledge. For example, if you need skill development in budgeting, you might find a coach willing to work with you in your campus fiscal operation. If you are interested in learning more about students, an individual from your campus student affairs office might be approached to coach you.

If you have identified a specific mentoring function that you are interested in, try working with these questions to identify individuals who might be approached to be your mentor.

Mentors on your campus can be found through a variety of sources, including your IT or campus human resources unit, referrals from friends, or referrals from your supervisor. Involvement in professional associations can bring another source of potential mentors through conference attendance or through online communication.

Another key consideration in finding a mentor is to understand what aspects are important in attracting a mentor's help. The research shows that mentors are attracted to mentees who show the following attributes:

  • Self-motivation and understanding of their own objectives
  • Strong work ethic and willingness to accept responsibility for their career
  • Openness and willingness to learn and to accept constructive feedback
  • Exhibiting trust behaviors and willingness to keep confidences

Skills for Mentees

There are important skills needed by mentees in order to take full advantage of the mentoring relationship. An excellent resource for building these skill sets is Gordon F. Shea's Making the Most of Being Mentored: How to Grow from a Mentoring Partnership (Crisp Publications, Inc., 1999).

Two of the most important skills relate to asking questions and listening.

  • Asking Questions. A major part of learning is asking the right question which will bring new information into the conversation. An essential resource in learning about the power of questions is Dorothy Leeds'sThe 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and Work (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2000).
  • Listening. Listening is a foundational skill to learning of all types, but it is particularly important within a mentoring relationship. There are many resources for learning how to listen better. One of the best for active listening is Madelyn Burley-Allen's Listening: The Forgotten Skill, 2nd Edition (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1995).


If you haven't already, listen to the Mentoring as a Professional Development Tool podcast to learn about effective mentoring and the ways it can boost your career, whether you are a mentor or a mentee

Download this informal agreement form to guide the “Negotiation Phase” of your mentor/mentee relationship.

Download Agreement