Five Simple Tips for Mentorship Success

By: Michelle M. Campbell

We have all at one time been a bad mentee. Allow me to repeat: At sometime in our career we have all been a bad mentee.

Over my career I’ve been a mentor and a mentee. By being in both roles, I’ve been able to have differing vantage points on the roles, responsibilities, and best practices. In my role as a mentor, I have observed that mentorship is often viewed as a one-way pouring of knowledge from the mentor into the mentee.

I do not agree with this viewpoint, but even if it were so, there are critical actions that a mentee can undertake to ensure that the mentor is invested in the mentee’s success.

1) Be realistic.

The mentor is a person with their own experiences, insights, and limitations. Know that the final results of any impact will be a combination of their knowledge and experience as shared with you and your own knowledge and experience. Strike for a happy compromise.

[Related: Is Your Mentor “The One?”]

2) Ask for specific advice.

To get the best of a mentor’s knowledge and experience, it is best to ask specific questions. Then it’s best to listen to the advice, formulate concrete steps, and commit to performing them.

3) Follow up.

After specific advice has been given and action taken, it is highly advisable to follow up with the mentor. Tell them the actions taken, your thoughts, your outcomes, and your proposed next actions. And then listen to their advice again.

By asking for advice, instituting that advice, and following up, the mentor is now more deeply invested in the success of the mentee. There is nothing more heartbreaking for a mentor than, upon delivering advice, having the mentee disparage the advice or outright ignore it. Make the advice your own. Accommodation is acceptance.

[Related: Show Up]

4) Drive for impact.

Keep asking: Is this relationship impactful? The basis of a mutually beneficial mentoring relationship is that the mentee gets something out of it as well as the mentor. Otherwise, why are we doing this?

The “why” has to be key and repetitive throughout the relationship. If there is no answer to “why” — that is, true potential impact cannot be quantified — then the relationship has to be revisited. Revisiting the relationship does not necessarily mean ceasing it; it may mean coming up with a change of course or a plan B.

5) Don’t bait and switch.

If you are seeking a job or to leverage a person’s connections, just ask directly for that consideration. Seeking a job under a guise of mentorship is deceitful and will only serve to frustrate both you and the mentor.

A direct request of introduction to one of the mentor’s colleagues or a job application is more appreciated than a thinly-veiled attempt to gain such an advantage via mentorship. Anything else will be discovered and upon discovery the relationship will never be the same.

In summary, there are ways to ensure that mentoring actually leads to positive, lasting change. My hope is that I have given you some of those ideas.

[Related: The Power of Empowerment]

Michelle M. Campbell is a global program and project manager experienced in managing strategic programs/projects aimed at revenue growth, cost reduction, client satisfaction, governance, and transformation at business and enterprise levels. You can find her management musings at

Originally published at

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