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





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 desire most
  • Recognize areas which they perform very well, find concrete examples of behaviors they can perform at a good-to-excellent level
  • 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.

Learning Style
Different people learn new ideas and concepts differently; for example, some people learn through verbalization and others through reflection.

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 a mentor.

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, protégés must:

  • Keep confidences shared with their mentor
  • Spend quality time together
  • Refrain from criticizing their mentor to others
  • Respect boundaries set by their mentor
  • Admit errors and take responsibility to correct them
  • When they disagree with their mentor, they should tactfully explain why. It is not productive to be a “yes-person”

Listening Actively
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 listening by:

  • 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, and smiling
  • 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 is, and should be, with the protégé. A protégé needs to have the self-confidence to approach potential mentors and effectively present the potential merits of mentoring relationships. One very important part of self-confidence is the ability to encourage others. This includes giving their mentors recognition 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 accomplishments
  • Point out positive traits such as perseverance and integrity that have been observed
  • Praise the mentor privately
  • Write an encouraging e-mail or complimentary voice mail
  • 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 and particulars discussed with the mentor be kept in confidence. Any situation involving a risk to the public would override this expectation. In mentoring situations in which e-mail must be used because of distance, it is very important to ensure the e-mail messages go only to the mentor. Protégés should consider setting up a password on their mentoring e-mail and should be sure that mentoring letters cannot be opened in error by someone else in their office.

WORKSHEET: Protégé’s Personal Evaluation

The Protégé’s Role
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.

I 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.

If 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 succeeding?
  • 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 of training?
  • 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 success?
  • What is my most disappointing failure?
  • If I had a mentor, what are the most important things that person could help me with?

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.

WORKSHEET: Creating a Personal Mission Statement


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 degree.

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?
  • Art/Music/Creativity – what goals do I have for my creative side?
  • 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 years?
  • Sports/Fitness/Health – if I am successful, what will my health and fitness be like several years down the road?

Example: 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

Writing Objectives
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 when?”

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 periods.

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 be:

  • Begin weekly study for the GRE by talking to a guidance counselor about 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 by (date).

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:

“S”pecific – do I know precisely what has to happen?
“M”easurable – how will I know if I’ve achieved this objective?
“A”ttainable – is it realistic or do-able?
“R”esult-oriented – will it really move me toward my goal?
“T”ime-limited – does it have a due date?

If your goals are SMART, they’re solid – now it is time to begin looking for a mentor.

“If people knew how hard I have had to work to gain my mastery, it
wouldn’t seem so wonderful.”
Michelangelo (1475-1564)

WORKSHEET: Goals and Objectives


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 a mentor

  • 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 to yours?
  • 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
  • Seniority
  • Roles or responsibilities that are different from yours
  • 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 skills

Approaching a potential mentor
When you decide that you are ready to have a mentor, some thought needs to be given to just who to approach. Since it is important that you discuss your plans to get a mentor with your supervisor, it is a reasonable plan to ask for suggestions from him about potential mentors. Your friends or university professors may also provide ideas about people who would make good mentors.

Approach 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 example:

  • Realize that your potential mentor may not feel s/he is an appropriate mentor for you.
  • 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 do.

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 last meeting.

WORKSHEET: Protégé’s Checklist of Tasks

WORKSHEET: Planning the First Meeting

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 meetings
  • 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 here. You 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.

WORKSHEET: A Mentoring Contract

“The 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 Republic


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Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta. All rights reserved