Use these resources to create a strong mentoring relationship.

 

Define the mentoring relationship and set expectations

Clearly defined expectations should be established for your mentoring relationship. Consider answering the following questions yourself and sharing them with your mentee.

  • For mentors: What would you like your mentee to get out of this relationship? What would you like to get out of this relationship?
  • For mentees: What would you like to get out of this relationship.

Together, discuss the following questions to further define your relationship expectations as you begin.

  • When and how often are we going to meet?
  • Who will make the arrangements for the meetings? Will someone create an agenda beforehand?
  • What will be your “ground rules” for how you will communicate?
  • Who facilitates or leads the meetings?
  • What boundaries need to be established? What topics are off-limits?
  • How will you respect one another’s time?
  • What will you do if you encounter an obstacle during your relationship?
  • Will you provide feedback to one another? What does that look/sound like?
  • What does confidentiality mean to each of you?? If confidentiality needs to be broken, how will you approach this?
  • How will you know when the relationship should be brought to closure?

Common mentoring expectations

It’s important for mentoring pairs to establish and discuss mentoring expectations to avoid confusion, miscommunication, and disappointment with the relationship. Here are a few common expectations mentors and mentees typically agree on that could be established at the beginning of a relationship:

  • Always maintain confidentiality between one another.
  • Keep any commitments that are made.
  • Evaluate the relationship at various points within an agreed-upon time frame.
  • Meet often with your mentee. Determine a regularly scheduled meeting time and make other arrangements if plans need to change.
  • Accept and respect one another’s differences.
  • When you meet, give each other your full and undivided attention. Try to limit distractions (i.e., turn your cell phone to silent or mention your reason for leaving it on if necessary).
  • Be responsible for your own learning and actions.
  • Build trust with one another by being open and honest.

You can use this mentoring relationship agreement template (PDF) to keep a record of your agreed-upon definitions and expectations.

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Get to know each other

Successful mentorship begins with a strong connection. Use the tips below to learn more about each other and build and strengthen your relationship.

Conversation starters

In any mentoring relationship, the first conversation(s) should be used to build the relationship, get to know each other and set the relationship up for success. Some conversation starters can include:

  • Tell me about yourself and your background.
  • What are some of your hobbies and interests?
  • What brought you to the University of Waterloo? What has been most surprising, challenging or affirming about the experience so far?
  • What has been your experience with mentoring? What do you expect out of this relationship?
  • What would you like to work on during our time together? What is a goal you can set?
  • What clubs or extracurricular activities were you a part of in high school? What would you be interested in getting involved with at Waterloo?
  • Are you staying on campus in a residence, in the city or at home?
  • What has been particularly challenging for you about adjusting to university? What has helped you be successful?
  • How is university level work different from high school? What resources have you found to be helpful? What do you still need?
  • What are some items on your bucket list? Have you crossed any of them off?
  • What is your favorite part about university? Your least favorite? 
  • Where do you want to be ten years from now? 
  • Do you speak any other languages? If you do, what are they?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • Where and what do you want to do when you retire?

Activities to do together

Below is a series of activities mentors and mentees can do together any point during their relationship. Switching things up will help maintain a healthy, growing and engaging mentoring relationship. Feel free to modify and/or change the activities to fit your needs or to come up with your own new activities.

On campus:

Off campus:

  • Go for a walk in Waterloo Park
  • Take the ION to UpTown Waterloo
  • See a movie at Princess Cinemas
  • Go to a board game café
  • Attend a city festival or event in the Kitchener-Waterloo area
  • Do an escape room together
  • Go for lunch or coffee at a local restaurant
 

    Other:

    • Show and tell!: Share photos or items with one another that are important to you. Talk about the significance of the photos or items.
    • Bucket list: Make a list of 25, 50, 75 or 100 things you want to do or accomplish during your lifetimes and share your lists with one another.
    • What’s your plan?: Make a timeline of your life for the next 5‐10 years. Include what you want to accomplish in the years ahead.
    • Extra! Extra!: Discuss a current event taking place in your community, province, country and/or the world and share your perspectives on the topic. Remember to respect one another’s opinions and that it’s ok to disagree.
    • It’s a mystery!: Write a list of 5-10 things you’ve always wanted to know. These can be about anything. Talk about why you want to know these things, research and come back to share your findings at your next meeting.
    • Top ten:  Develop a top ten list of some sort. It could be a top ten list for the New Year, for the relationship, for what you’ve learned - anything that’s conducive to learning and/or accomplishment. Share your lists with one another.
    • Game time: Play a game with one another outside your normal meeting setting (i.e. card game, pool, board game, etc.)
    • Reading together: Find a book or article that interests both of you and assign readings between meetings. Discuss your thoughts on what you read at your next meeting.
    • Scavenger hunt: Have your mentee take part in a mini scavenger hunt with you to help them become familiar with a new place and/or environment. Develop clues for 5-10 key places to help them learn how to navigate and succeed in their new environment.
    • Search for resources: Identify a few professional development opportunities and/or resources that align with your mentee’s goals. Share the list with your mentee and encourage them to use the opportunities.
    • Showtime: Attend an event or show together.

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    Evaluate the relationship

    It’s important to periodically check in on your mentoring relationship. This will allow you to assess how things are going, if goals are being met, and if any changes need to be made. Use the tips below to keep your relationship on the right track.

    Reflect after meeting

    Below are some reflection questions you can ask after a meeting with your mentee. This will help you evaluate how the conversation went, make changes where necessary and identify action items that need to be completed before the next interaction.

    • What went well today?
    • What did we accomplish today?
    • What should we do more/ less of?
    • If there was an agenda for the meeting, were the objectives of the agenda achieved? Why/why not?
    • What in our discussion challenged you today? Why?
    • Have things changed since we last met?
    • What part of our conversation did you find most helpful and feel you could put into practice?
    • What did not help today?
    • What was your apple (i.e. positive) to this meeting?
    • What was your onion (i.e. negative) to this meeting?
    • Is the frequency and length of our interactions working?
    • Are we on track?
    • When will we meet next?
    • What’s next?
     

    Wrap up each conversation with:

    • Benefits of our time together?
    • Any concerns?
    • Next steps and action items?

    Relationship check-in

    Mentoring partnerships can fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Here’s an activity that will help you revive your partnership and get you back up to speed with one another. You can use this activity as a starting point for re-connecting. Discuss each item together.

    Meetings:

    • What are we working on right now?
    • What is our progress to date in achieving our goals and objectives?

    Relationship:

    • What is going particularly well in our mentoring relationship right now?
    • What has been our greatest challenge so far?
    • What assistance could we use?

    Learning:

    • What have we learned about ourselves? Each other?
    • What are some of the conditions that have best promoted new learning?
     

      Reflect on the relationship

      Use the questions below to reflect on your relationship and overall experience with your mentee. Bring your responses to your final meeting to guide your discussion.

      • What was the most beneficial development activity you did with your mentee?
      • What is the most beneficial change you identified in yourself because of the mentoring relationship?
      • What goals did you set out to achieve when you first entered the mentorship relationship? How did you progress through those goals?
      • As a result of this relationship, what knowledge, skills and/or attitudes did you gain?
      • What were your strengths as a mentor? What did you bring to the relationship?
      • What are some opportunities for further learning, growth and development?
      • How will you apply what you’ve learned in future jobs/roles/relationships?
      • Are there any ways this mentoring relationship could have been more effective?
      • Are there recommendations you’d make for mentoring relationships in the future?
      • As you transition out of your formal relationship, what do you hope for your relationship moving forward?

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      Tips for virtual mentorship

      • Establish expectations. Agree upfront how your virtual mentorship relationship will work.
        • What platform/tool will you use?
        • Will you conduct your meetings with video or audio only?
        • How frequently will you connect?
        • How quickly will you respond to one another?
      • Prepare for your meeting in advance to avoid technical difficulties or unexpected problems (i.e. make sure the camera/microphone is working).
      • Don’t forget to re-establish the human connection at the beginning of a meeting. Ensure you're checking in on one another before getting down to work.
      • Build in extra space and time for pauses and reflection. Watch your tendency to fill "dead air" or silences – the other person may just be thinking. Pay attention to when you're talking over each other. Focus on listening more than you think you should.
      • Have a clear agenda for each meeting and identify the focus of the conversation at the beginning.
      • Remember to be fully present. Do your best to minimize distractions and give your full attention to your mentee.
      • Every few times you connect, evaluate how the mentorship relationship is working and what could make it even more effective.

      Source: Art of Mentoring

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