Beginning your mentoring relationship

Your first mentoring meeting is a great chance to get to know your potential mentee and assess whether you can work together. It’s also about setting some goals and boundaries. This factsheet will help you get started and plan ahead.

Before you meet  

Make the first contact with your mentee – We suggest mentors contact their mentee by email to arrange the first meeting within a week after the match is made.

Prepare to meet your mentee – It can be helpful to ask your mentee for brief background information. For example, they could send you their CV or LinkedIn profile. You can also read over your mentee’s application form, which we will share with you, to get an understanding of where they are at in their career.

The first meeting

Ask open questions – Good questions that will help you find out how you can support your mentee include: “Tell me about your relationships at work”; “How did you get to where you are?”; “What key challenges do you face in your role?”; and “What are your career goals over the next three years?”

Identify goals – Ask your mentee how they’d like to use your sessions together and what they’d like to achieve by the end of your agreed timeframe. Discuss their longer term goals and how you can support them to work towards these.

Set boundaries – It’s important to mention confidentiality early on in your first meeting to help your mentee feel comfortable. Discussing what you both want out of the process, and your mentee’s expectations of what mentoring is, can help to establish your working relationship.
For example, explain how you think you can help meet their goals, and your limitations in terms of what you can offer.

Discuss practicalities – Allow time to discuss things like how often you will meet, how long for and where, and put some dates in the diary. Have an open discussion about timescales so that you can agree a rough end date.

“Being honest with each other is so important in the first meeting. To introduce myself, I talk a bit about my background as it helps potential mentees consider if I’m the right mentor for them. They might ask me about challenges I’ve faced and I answer honestly. I hope this helps them see that everybody makes mistakes and to feel more comfortable.”

James Barker
Associate head of digital ,
NSPCC

Following the first meeting

Assess chemistry – A good match feels natural, comfortable and honest. Ask your mentee if they want to work with you at the end of the first session. Suggest they send you, or CharityComms, an email if they change their mind and try not to take a ‘No’ personally.

Follow up – Suggest your mentee sends you a follow up email clarifying what was discussed and what they want to talk about next time. This will help them set their own agenda.

Check in with CharityComms – We’d love to know how your first meeting went. If the match doesn’t feel right for any reason, get in touch and we can discuss options.

“What I liked most about being a manager at work was trying to find out what people were good at. With mentoring, I felt you could help someone by sharing your experience without having to deal with the HR side of management. The first meeting is about seeing if you connect. So making it quite informal is good. If the chemistry isn’t there, I think it's absolutely fine to not go ahead.”

Bertie Bosrédon
digital engagement and social media consultant,
freelance

Read more top tips and guidance about being a mentor in our resources section.