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Beginning your mentoring relationship

Your first mentoring meeting is a great chance to get to know your potential mentor 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

Be flexible – Remember your mentor is volunteering their time to help you with your career. So do respond quickly when they get in touch with you and be as flexible as you can about when and where to meet.

Be clear about your objectives – Before you meet your mentor, make sure you’ve thought about what you want to achieve and how a mentor may be able to help you. It’s important to be ready for an open discussion about what you’re both looking to get out of the relationship.

Be prepared – Think about how you’d answer questions such as: “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?”

The first meeting

Identify goals – Talk to your mentor about how you’d like to use your sessions together and what you’d like to achieve by the end of your agreed timeframe. Discuss your longer term goals and how you might work towards these together. It can be useful to set out key objectives and organise your meetings around them.

Talk about confidentiality – Sometimes you’ll want to talk to your mentor about private or controversial work issues. Agree in your first meeting to keep everything you discuss confidential at all times.

Discuss practicalities – Allow time to discuss things like how often you will meet, how long for and where. On average, people meet every four to six weeks, for around six to 12 months. But it can be different for everyone, so see what you think is best for you both. Have an open discussion about timescales so you can agree a rough end date. Pick a venue that’s quiet, like a coffee shop without music, the kind of place you’d go for a casual business meeting.

Following the first meeting

Assess the chemistry – Have a think about whether the mentor you’ve been set up with feels right for you. A good match is someone you can be honest with, feel comfortable talking to, and who has career experience that’s relevant to your goals.

Follow up – Send your mentor a follow up email clarifying what was discussed, such as what your objectives are and dates for the next few meetings. It’s up to you to take the steering wheel now and keep the meetings going.

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

“I think the first meeting with your mentor is about assessing the chemistry of the match. It’s a professional friendship and you need to find out whether you spark off each other and have a rapport. It’s important to agree boundaries in the first meeting. It sets the grounds for honesty in your relationship. I’d also suggest that you agree when you will review the relationship.”

Steve Palmer

press and public affairs manager, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)

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