<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> APEGGA Mentoring Handbook





Mentoring is a planned pairing of a more skilled or experienced person with a lesser skilled or experienced one with the agreed-upon goal of having the lesser skilled person grow and develop specific abilities to reach long-term objectives.

For the sake of simplicity in APEGGA, the term “mentor” refers to an individual with whom a less experienced person has established a formal relationship with clearly defined goals. The protégé (or mentee, trainee, apprentice or candidate) is the individual with less experience. The protégé and mentor are two individuals who will engage in a structured relationship with specific objectives. The mentor will share with the protégé the responsibility of achieving the goals rather then bear sole responsibility.

In the APEGGA context, Professional Development Hours can be claimed for mentoring activities. The relationship must be based on specific goals driven by the protégé but jointly arrived at with the mentor. The relationship may be more structured as is suggested by the worksheets in this guideline or it may be based on a natural chemistry between the two partners. The relationship, however, should be between two individuals who do not have a direct reporting relationship but rather a relationship in which coaching and counseling can be delivered in a non-judgmental way.

Within the APEGGA Professional Development program, mentors can claim the time invested in mentoring under Participation. Protégés may claim their time under Informal Activities.

As a mentor, you can help aspiring young people find their way in the technical world in which they live.


In Greek mythology when Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went off to fight in the Trojan War, he asked his best friend, Mentor, to look after the development of his son, Telemachus. Mentor’s task was to educate and train the boy to fulfill his birthright. Mentor helped Telemachus to become an adult who would inspire his father’s pride. When Odysseus failed to return home at the end of the war, Telemachus left the safety of his home to find his father and bring him home. The goddess Athena, disguised as Mentor, traveled with him. The triumph of this venture proved the success of Mentor – and mentoring.

Since then mentoring has had a long and reputable history. Through time, mentoring has included trade and craft guilds, apprenticeship systems and matching based on similar learning styles. Mentoring has regained popularity under a variety of names and styles, again mainly as a method by which a less experienced individual can learn from a more experienced one. The United States Congress named 2001 as the “Year of the Mentor” and strongly encouraged cities and towns to organize volunteer programs to match adults with teens to help put them on a career track.

There have been a number of innovations in mentoring. Most recently e-mentoring has been shown to work extremely well after an initial level of trust and certain ground rules have been established. In 2001, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary launched “SCIberMENTOR”, an e-mail mentorship program designed to match women in science and engineering with girls between the ages of 11 and 18. Often the mentors and protégés never meet each other face-to-face but have enjoyed effective written correspondence.


Imagine that you aspire to be a great mountain climber. You have a new pair of boots, a tent, a backpack and endless enthusiasm, but you have never done much more than climb the stairs when necessary. As mentioned in the introduction, there are two ways to becoming a good mountain climber. You could take a practice run with somebody who has lots of experience and the willingness to share it. The other way is to be taken to the base of a high mountain, dropped off and told to get to the top or quit. If you don’t make it, your enthusiasm disappears and you seek ways to avoid similar challenges in the future.

Too often, new professionals find themselves alone at the bottom of the world’s tallest mountain. Having a mentor will help provide the confidence they need to climb the obstacles to a great career.


There are many different styles of mentoring depending on the type of organization and the individuals involved.

Casual Mentoring

Casual mentoring is what some individuals are referring to when they give public recognition to a mentor who has served as a role model or example. The mentor may not be aware that the protégé is using their behaviours as an example to follow. Everyone engages in this type of mentoring, but it has no formal structure or defined objectives – it involves simply learning from the good habits and behaviours demonstrated by others. This is not to suggest that casual mentoring is without value since much can be learned from others even in passing interactions.

Informal Mentoring

Informal mentoring relationships are unplanned relationships. These mentoring relationships grow out of a chance connection between two people and are further built into a relationship in which there is transference of skills and knowledge. There is no contract or list of goals. The relationship may move from professional to personal and may last a lifetime. These mentoring relationships are unquestionably valuable, but ‘just happen’ as opposed to being actively developed.

Informal mentoring can be enhanced if the participants in the relationship take the time to have “ formal” discussions and establish specific goals for the transference of certain skills and knowledge within set time periods.

Non-facilitated Mentoring

Non-facilitated mentoring relationships are those with structure, such as a mentoring contract, but they have no coordinated assignment of mentor-protégé pairs. The individuals make a mentoring connection without external help or direction. The individuals will have supporting material such as written guidelines or seminars and will be cognizant of their individual and paired expectations. They will undertake a mentoring contract and will consult their respective employers if necessary. They may have access to resource persons for help. Non-facilitated mentoring may include multiple or group mentoring and e-mentoring as described below.

Facilitated Mentoring

Facilitated mentoring is a structured program that involves a coordinator who assigns mentoring pairs based on character, skills, need and other criteria. The APEGGA Mentoring Pilot Project falls in this category. Some other large corporations have facilitated mentoring programs as part of their company orientation practices, or as succession management strategies. The matching process is time-consuming and requires considerable human and capital resources. Facilitated mentoring also helps design contracts, creates reasonable lists of goals and tracks the mentoring pairs to see if the relationship is working and if not, steps in to help facilitate the relationship. Although this may be the best kind of mentoring program, the cost is often prohibitive.

Group Mentoring

This is relatively new idea, or renewed idea, as it was a practice hundreds of years ago under various names. Group mentoring occurs when a number of mentors serve together as a resource for a defined group of protégés with similar expectations. The mentors bring a variety of skills to protégés and share responsibility for each protégé’s growth. The group may meet at regular intervals and unlike a one-on-one pairing, if one or two mentors are unavailable, the protégés will still have a contact person. The protégé group also benefits from the varying backgrounds and skill sets of their peers and may not need the mentors’ presence at each meeting. All involved benefit from the network of colleagues.

Multiple Mentoring

A protégé may wish to consider having a number of mentors, each of whom offers different skills and experiences. Because the relationship must benefit both parties, the protégé should not use the mentors only as skill improvement stations, but the protégé should also try to offer in return some elements of their knowledge or experience that might be of benefit to the mentor. It is up to the protégé to decide who will make a good mentor and approach that individual with a plan.


E-Mentoring can be successful if those matched in the relationship are equally adept at using computers. A good deal of trust is required because comments made in writing can be much more career limiting than a comment made in casual conversation. Because of this fact, mentors and protégés must give serious consideration to limiting topics. Written comments about difficulties experienced with one’s boss or someone else in the organization would have to be avoided on-line, thus limiting the value of the relationship. Those using e-mail for personal correspondence should seriously consider using passwords on confidential documents. Using e-mail for the everyday organization such as setting up a private meeting for discussions of sensitive subjects can overcome the problem. E-mentoring is becoming more and more popular because it helps to overcome some of the problems caused by full schedules and jobs that require travel.


There are specific core skills that everyone should use in a mentoring relationship. They are listed below.

Listen Actively

Most of us have never been trained in how to listen to other people. While we may think we are pretty good listeners, most people don’t listen as well as they could. Some common traps and tips to avoid them include:

  • Listening to respond. Stay focused on what the speaker is saying until it is your turn to talk. Don’t formulate your answer until they are finished. You’ll miss the end of their statement.
  • Making assumptions. Check out what you have heard. You do this by playing back or summarizing, in your own words, what you think the other person has said. You might say, “So you think your boss doesn’t like you. Is that right?” or “So you feel that I should take a course in Effective Technical Writing?” Or check to see if you understand how the other person feels. You might say, “You sound really frustrated or hurt.” or “You sound frustrated with me.” If you have truly heard each other, you will notice how relieved the other looks when you affirm what you hear or sense. People rarely feel that they have been listened to and understood. Confirmation is a powerful thing.

If you think your partner has it wrong, don’t be afraid to express your concerns.

Question Openly
Most of us do not excel in asking questions because we tend to ask questions that solicit a Yes/No answer – THE CLOSED QUESTION. It is better to ask questions that give the person a chance to expand on the subject or their opinion – THE OPEN QUESTION. An example of a closed question might be to say, “Do you like your job?” To turn that into an open question you might say, “How do you feel about your job?” Learning to do so enables you to understand each other better and to develop a major life skill.

Read Body Language
Sometimes body language says much more than words do. Some examples:

  • Looking away – avoiding eye contact may mean discomfort, upset, disagreement, embarrassment
  • Crossed arms – anger, defensiveness, closed to the other’s opinion
  • Head in hands – fatigue, upset
  • Moving backwards, tilting chair back – feeling space invaded
  • Fidgeting, foot tapping – anxiety, boredom
  • Hands covering eyes or mouth – sadness, shame

Avoid Communications Roadblocks
Some styles tend to get in the way of good interaction, for example:

  • Ordering – telling someone what to do
  • Threatening – telling someone that there is only one course of action, i.e. “If you don’t pay attention to this problem, I will stop seeing you.”
  • Preaching – telling someone how to behave
  • Avoiding – trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation in the hope it will just go away
  • Pacifying – trying to make someone feel better without having solved the problem
  • Lecturing – giving someone unsolicited advice

Build Trust
The following suggestions may help you develop rapport and build trust:

  • Call just to talk
  • Pick a good place to meet away from your offices
  • Help each other prepare and offer suggestions
  • Prepare yourself
  • Be on time
  • Set a comfortable tone


Personal aptitude: Not everyone is suited to being a mentor or a protégé. The Mentor and Protégé sections of this guideline outline desirable attributes or competencies that are specific to either mentor or protégé. The following are attributes that both mentor and protégé should possess.

Control: The protégé should manage and set the goals for the relationship. After all, it is the development of the protégé that is primarily at stake. That is not to say that the mentor does not have any input, but the protégé must be the one who takes responsibility for the process and outcomes.

Non-technical relationship: In the context of the APEGGA program, a mentoring relationship does not exist to develop the protégé’s technical skills. Any technical content should, at most, be a very minor component of the relationship.

Time: Good mentoring takes time – time spent in active discourse and time preparing for meetings. It is recommended that the mentor and protégé be prepared to commit to a minimum of two hours per month for mentoring activities, including preparation and review.

Access: The protégé must be able to contact the mentor easily. Mentors must respond in a timely fashion. Protégés may need a few moments of their mentor’s time on short notice. An important component of professionalism is the respect for the time of others. Define reasonable limits and identify demands that are excessive or unreasonable.

Intimacy: A good mentoring relationship promotes trust and open, honest, meaningful communication. The danger is that this relationship may be interpreted as a more intimate one by either of the participants or by an outside observer. This can lead to spousal jealousy, gossip or hurt feelings. It is important to be aware of these potential pitfalls and guard against them.

Sensitivity: Be sensitive to cultural and gender differences. One of the goals of this handbook is the acclimatization of a great variety of individuals into the professional and technical culture of Alberta and Canada. This does not negate the rights of individuals to their gender or culture, however different from your own. Some of the most effective protégé/mentor matches involve very different individuals.

Gender: Mentoring relationships between men and women can be subject to some unique complications. Men tend to value hierarchical relationships, while women tend to emphasize co-operative efforts. Men and women often communicate with different speech patterns that can be an impediment to mentor-protégé communication. Either of the participants may be unsure of what is appropriate behaviour with the opposite sex within a mentoring relationship and there is always the possibility of gossip. These issues are manageable if addressed early in the mentoring relationship.

Differences in culture: While this often refers to differences in personal culture, it can also be applied to differences in professional or corporate culture. The mentor and protégé must both be aware of these differences and respect them. Differences in corporate culture are especially important when the mentor and protégé do not work for the same employer. In that situation, the mentor must be sure to take differences into account when dispensing advice.

Confidentiality: In order for a mentoring relationship to succeed, it must be completely confidential. This is especially important when the participants work for different organizations. Any information that either the mentor or protégé receives about the other organization must be kept confidential and not be relayed to their co-workers or exploited for personal gain. Before a cross-organizational mentoring relationship is established, both participants should fully disclose their intentions to their respective employers. It is important to remember that, in the APEGGA context, a mentoring relationship does not exist for technical reasons. Its purpose is to aid the protégé in developing other career skills. Any technical content should be at the most a very minor component of the relationship. Technology transfer works much better in a coaching relationship.

Favoritism: This is a risk in any professional relationship. A mentor who supervises a protégé who is also an employee must take particular care to avoid favouring that person. It is recommended that mentor/protégé pairs not be established between a protégé and a direct supervisor to help avoid these situations. Mentors must evaluate their own effort in the relationship.

Cloning: The purpose of a mentoring relationship is for the mentor to facilitate the protégé’s development based on the mentor’s greater experience. It is not for mentors to mold their protégés into duplicates of themselves. Protégés must be allowed to develop in their own ways. A mentor can make suggestions about what might best be accomplished but the final decision must be left to the protégé.

Terminating the mentoring relationship: This important issue needs to be discussed early in a mentoring relationship. How will the participants know when the relationship has reached its conclusion and should be ended? How will the relationship be ended? Clear, early definition of this issue will ensure that there are no guilty or hurt

Copyright © 2004 The Association of Professional Engineers,
Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta. All rights reserved