CHAPTER 3 –THE PROTÉGÉ
ATTRIBUTES OF A RECEPTIVE PROTÉGÉ
Being involved in a mentoring relationship
requires effort. Anyone who wishes to improve
their skills through the use of a mentor
should consider these issues.
Willingness to Learn
Successful protégés must have
a willingness to learn from their chosen
mentors. A mentoring relationship is interactive
and requires the protégé to
be committed to setting goals and working
toward specific learning objectives.
Willingness and Ability to Self-Evaluate
Protégés need to be able to
assess their skills objectively and evaluate
potential opportunities for self-development.
They should have a personal vision, specific
career/life goals and a good grasp on current
career realities. This self-evaluation is
required for the protégé to
identify potential mentors and set objectives
within the mentoring relationship. Before
asking for help, protégés should
know their tentative career/life goals, their
strengths, the development they need and
the specific assistance they would like.
The more they understand about themselves,
the more accurately they can present their
goals to their potential mentor. Some ways
to demonstrate their ability to evaluate
their skills include:
- Understand what is important
to them, what they value and what they
- Recognize areas which they perform very
well, find concrete examples of behaviors
they can perform at a good-to-excellent
Identify specific weaknesses or areas in
which others have indicated that the protégé needs
to grow and develop.
- Set tentative one-to-five year goals for
both their personal life and career, and
- Describe accurately the reality of work
situations in which they are involved.
Different people learn new ideas
and concepts differently; for
example, some people learn
through verbalization and others
Since mentoring is a tool for learning,
it is important for protégés
to understand how they learn so they can
evaluate whether mentoring is an effective
learning tool for them. If mentoring is
right for them, knowledge of their learning
style will be important in the choice of
Building a mentoring relationship takes
time. Good protégés recognize
that a mentor’s time is valuable
and ensure that they adequately prepare
for each face-to-face meeting. It is recommended
that protégés be prepared
to commit a minimum of two hours every
other week, in addition to the time for
meetings, for mentoring activities, including
review and preparation. Finding time to
do the many things required as a new professional
is often difficult. Time management is
an acquired skill that comes with experience,
but can be augmented with appropriate time-management
training. If protégés have
difficulty meeting the time commitments
of the mentoring relationship, they could
ask the mentor for advice and ask their
supervisor about training-on-the-job.
Commitment and Building Trust
Protégés must be committed
to achieving the objectives of a mentoring
relationship. Persistence is an important
part of the process. The more the mentor
is able to trust in the protégé’s
ability and willingness, the more committed
he will be to the partnership. This trust
develops over time as the mentor observes
appropriate behaviors on the part of the
protégé. To become trustworthy,
- Keep confidences shared with
- Spend quality time together
- Refrain from criticizing their mentor to
- Respect boundaries set by their mentor
- Admit errors and take responsibility to
When they disagree with their mentor, they
should tactfully explain why. It is not
productive to be a “yes-person”
Active listening is an important
skill for both mentors and protégés.
When protégés listen well,
they demonstrate to their mentors that
they are interested and understand what
they are saying. Protégés
can demonstrate their active
- Showing interest with encouraging
responses such as “hmmm…” and “yes...” or
by paraphrasing certain comments in their
questions to show they understand
- Using nonverbal signs of understanding,
such as nodding their heads, leaning forward,
- Avoiding the interruption of others when
they are talking
- Showing interest and remembering comments
made in previous meetings
- Summarizing key elements of conversations
as the meeting draws to a close
Much of the responsibility for
initiating a mentoring relationship
should be, with the protégé. A protégé needs
to have the self-confidence to
approach potential mentors and
the potential merits of mentoring
relationships. One very important
part of self-confidence
is the ability to encourage others.
This includes giving their mentors
and sincere positive feedback.
There are many different kinds
of feedback and mentors
vary in the amount and kind of
encouragement they feel comfortable
with, for example:
- Compliment the mentor on known
- Point out positive traits such as perseverance
and integrity that have been observed
- Praise the mentor privately
- Write an encouraging e-mail or complimentary
- Express thanks and appreciation and let
the mentor know how suggestions have been
applied or ideas used
The mentor will expect, and the
relationship demands that the details
discussed with the mentor be kept
in confidence. Any situation involving
a risk to the public
would override this expectation.
mentoring situations in which e-mail
must be used
because of distance, it is very
important to ensure the e-mail
only to the mentor. Protégés
should consider setting up a password
mentoring e-mail and should be
sure that mentoring letters cannot
be opened in error
by someone else in their office.
Protégé’s Personal Evaluation
Before proceeding with any mentoring relationship,
the protégé should consider
the following points. It is appropriate
to review this list from time to time
during a mentoring contract in order
to review your commitment.
am committed to using the experience
of my mentor
and to accepting the insights that
s/he believes could assist me
||I am committed to improving my skills
in order to meet the goals I have set.
||I am committed to working with my
mentor for the time/frequency agreed
upon in the mentoring plan.
||I am open to learning
and receiving feedback from my mentor.
||I am interested in learning
from someone whose background and experiences
are different from my own.
you consider that you are ready to work
with a mentor there is another important
step to take before beginning the task
of finding a mentor. Experts on self-help,
leadership, personal development and career
success planning are all passionate about
the first rule for protégés – know
your personal vision. What do you plan
to do with your life in the next three
to five years?
Creating a Vision
It is not always easy to set goals. Most
of us know we want to be successful, but
after the stress of graduating from university
and learning the ropes in a new job, we
often fail to determine what is needed
to become successful. The first step in
setting goals is to find a quiet place
where you can sit and consider the future.
Think about where you can realistically
expect to be in three to five years. Place
these expectations in one column and then
list what you must do to meet the expectation
beside it. Here are some questions that
may help to get you started:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my major needs?
- What are my short-term job objectives?
- What are my long-term job objectives?
- What are my long-term career goals?
- What do I bring to the table?
- What are the most important things I should
be accomplishing in my job?
- Do I feel successful at my job at this
time? If not, what is preventing me from
- What do I like best about my job?
- If I could add variety, autonomy, and importance
to my job, how would I use them?
- What have been the most significant learning
experiences in my career?
- Would I benefit from any particular type
- How do I learn best?
from doing? from watching?
from listening? from experimenting?
- What do I think most hinders my success?
- What scares me?
- What makes me want to learn more?
- Which talents do I lack?
- What is the toughest stretch for me?
- • What is my most satisfying
What is my most disappointing failure?
If I had a mentor, what are the most
important things that person could help
Now that you have taken the time to answer
some fundamental questions about yourself,
see if you can create a mission statement
for yourself. Remember that major corporations
spend thousands of dollars to have consultants
help them develop the “perfect”
mission statement. What you create may not
be perfect, but it will reflect how you
are thinking today – you can always
up-date your mission statement.
Creating a Personal Mission Statement
SETTING GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Before you can have that very important
first meeting with a potential mentor,
you need to be able to tell the prospective
mentor what you want from him/her. If
you know what your goals and objectives
are, you will be able to explain what
you want and need from a mentoring relationship.
Knowing this will help you make decisions
about whom to approach as a potential
mentor, that is, the best person to help
you meet your goals.
There is an old saying, “If you
don’t know where you are going, any
road will do.” Unfortunately, most
of us have never been taught how to set
goals or to develop personal mission statements.
Goals define the direction in which you
are headed over the next several years.
They are not short-term. It may take months
or even years to reach them and they may
not be clearly measurable. For example,
you may set a goal of improving your cardiovascular
fitness. You may be thinking about education
or perhaps have a goal of getting a masters
Objectives are smaller steps that you
take to make progress towards your goals.
To be useful, objectives must answer the
questions “what will change, by how
much and when?
In order to create the kind of life you
want, it helps to have a clear picture
of where you are headed – your personal
mission. It is equally important to make
a plan on how to get there – how
to make your dreams come true, one day
at a time. By writing down goals and objectives
for yourself, you are taking a big step
toward making them happen. The next step
will be to actually do these things – and
keep a record. This is something you and
your mentor can work on together over time.
Writing Goals: Here are some of the kinds
of goals a young professional like you
might be interested in setting.
- Career – where
do I want to be in my career in five years?
– what goals do I have for my creative
- Education –
where do I want to be in several years
in terms of my education?
- Relationships –
three years from now, what do I want my
relationships to be like? Do I want more
friends? More time with family? A better
relationship with my family? To be married?
To be single?
- Spiritual –
what kind of spiritual growth or involvement
do I see for myself over the next few
– if I am successful, what will
my health and fitness be like several
years down the road?
One young person might write: Three years
from today, I will be:
- Finishing my Masters degree
Living on my own – not married
- Working at the company of my dreams
- Taking piano lessons
Working out – more fit
- Active in doing community service
Objectives are the smaller steps you
take to make progress toward your
goal. To be useful, objectives need to answer the question “what
will change, by how much, by
Usually objectives work best when they
are written for the next few months to
a year. It’s hard to know what will
change beyond that timeframe, so it’s
hard to set realistic objectives for longer
Let’s say you’re a new graduate
in engineering with a goal of obtaining
an MBA while you are working full time
in industry. Some good objectives might
- Begin weekly study for the
GRE by talking to a guidance counselor
requirements for admission
- Determine what I need to do by (date)
- Discuss your goals with your supervisor
and ask his/her opinions on how to succeed
- Read at least (number) books on the subject
The following page provides space for
you to write down the goals and objectives
that you have been thinking about as you
read. Any goal or objective that is written
down has at least a 50 per cent greater
chance to be achieved than something that
just passes through your mind.
Keep this sheet of paper handy. Look at
it often and add to it as your understanding
of yourself develops. Your goals and objectives
may change on a daily basis, depending
on the situation. If you keep track of
the changes, you can see yourself grow.
Here’s a tip on how to test if your
objectives are solid – ask yourself,
are they “SMART?”
SMART stands for:
– do I know precisely what has to
– how will I know if I’ve
achieved this objective?
– is it realistic or do-able?
– will it really move me toward
– does it have a due date?
If your goals are SMART, they’re
solid – now it is time to begin looking
for a mentor.
knew how hard I have had to work to gain
my mastery, it
wouldn’t seem so wonderful.”
Goals and Objectives
FINDING A MENTOR
First and foremost: discuss your plans
with your supervisor! It does not matter
if you plan to approach a mentor outside
or inside the company where you work.
Your supervisor may suggest other potential
mentors or may even facilitate a first
meeting which would be very helpful.
In some programs it is possible to have
more than one mentor; however, our program
will not be using group mentoring.
Mentoring is a tool that can be used to
complement your career development process.
You may already have established a coaching
relationship with your direct supervisor.
A mentor can help you develop skills and
competencies in which your supervisor may
not be an expert or for which they may
not have time.
Once you have created your continuous
learning objectives and career development
plan, it is appropriate to share your mentoring
needs with your supervisor. He may be able
to help you identify a potential mentor.
There is no question that he will be impressed
that you have taken the initiative and
know what you want and need in the work
environment, and may provide suggestions
that will help you develop.
Attributes to consider when choosing
- How interested is your potential mentor
in developing his/her mentoring skills?
- How much time does your potential mentor
have available? Is the person already
involved in other mentoring relationships?
How similar is the potential mentor’s
personal style to your own?
- Does the potential mentor have a similar
professional or academic background
- Has your potential mentor had a career
path (or even life path) from which
you would like to learn?
What to look for in a mentor
- Available time
- Roles or responsibilities that are different
- Someone willing to share special projects
- A person who is active in professional
societies and has a network of associates
- Diversity: it is important to seek someone
not exactly like yourself. Try to learn
new approaches and develop your creativity
by seeking out people with different
learning, problem solving, and people management
When you decide
that you are
have a mentor,
to just who
it is important
that you discuss
to get a mentor
with your supervisor,
it is a reasonable
him about potential
your potential mentor with a well-developed
plan for the mentoring relationship. The
mentor needs to be able to assess if s/he
will be able to help you acquire the skills
or competencies that you want to develop.
Do not feel badly or rejected if a potential
mentor says no to the request to become
your mentor. There are many reasons that
s/he may feel compelled to say no. For
- Realize that your potential
mentor may not feel s/he is an appropriate
S/he may already be involved in other mentoring
relationships and not have the time to
commit to another protégé.
Always thank the potential mentor for
their consideration and ask if they have
any suggestions for a mentor for you. They
will be anxious to make suggestions because
nobody likes to say no when receiving such
a flattering request.
There are a few rules you can follow to
help guide you during your search for a
mentor. These rules have been revised from
the book The New Mentors & Protégés
by Linda Phillips-Jones.
- Always use common terms in discussing
a potential relationship. Using terms
like protégé or mentor may
literally frighten away someone who would
be a good mentor, but doesn’t feel
comfortable being called a mentor.
- Always be friendly but not pushy or
desperate as you are looking for a mentor.
If you appear to be too “needy”,
a mentor may avoid a relationship because
you appear to be too big a risk.
- Always be a good listener and hear
what your mentor candidate is saying.
If you oversell yourself by talking too
much or use a canned presentation you
may miss the signals that indicate how
the relationship might develop.
- Always be persistent, don’t give
up too easily. It is always difficult
to know what is going on in another person’s
life. You may meet them on a day that
has gone wrong from the first moment-
it isn’t you; it is the day. When
a person you know to be nice isn’t,
try to understand why and approach him/her
again on a day when they are smiling.
- Always get back to your prospective
mentor immediately after they have shown
an expression of interest in being your
mentor. If a time lag occurs your potential
mentor may change his/her mind.
- Always follow up with a hand-written
thank you note after you have had a meeting
with a prospective mentor. This is a golden
rule for success and shows good manners,
regardless of the meeting’s outcome.
The following checklist covers about everything
that can be thought of in the scope of
the protégé’s role.
It is not necessary to take each step,
but it is valuable for you to read through
the list and determine what you want to
It is important to record what you do
in the development of this special relationship.
In addition to this checklist Appendix
A provides a separate logbook for you to
use during your relationship. Both mentors
and protégés should keep
good records of the relationship. Always
review notes of previous meetings before
going to the next meeting to ensure you
have done everything you promised at the
Planning the First Meeting
SETTING UP A CONTRACT
A good mentoring relationship starts with
preparation by both parties. It is recommended
that the relationships have a duration
of about one year. It is a very good
idea for the mentor and the protégé to
have a contract for how they intend to
work together. You can create your own
contract that may include the following:
- Create a set of specific short
term and long term objectives for the relationship
List the preliminary developmental goals
for the protégé
- Note the expectations that both of you
have for the relationship
- List the necessary contributions that both
must make so the relationship will work
- Create a tentative schedule for your formal
- Set up a procedure for handling informal
contacts between formal sessions
- Determine who has the chief responsibility
for driving the relationship
- Agree on confidentiality
Describe the differences in the role of
the protégé, the mentor,
and the protégé’s superior
The following page provides a model mentoring
contract form that can also be downloaded
need to click on the Mentoring tab to download
it. It is very simple and will need to be
edited to fit your needs. Having a contract
is very important; so do not allow other
topics to fill in all of the available time.
A Mentoring Contract
beginning is the most important
part of any
work, especially in the case of
a young and tender thing; for that
is the time at which character
is being formed and the desired
impression is more readily taken.”
Plato (427 – 347 B.C.) The