Mentor & Mentee: What Are Their Roles and Responsibilities?

Sam Cook


Mentor & Mentee: What Are Their Roles and Responsibilities?

A mentor & mentee relationship is one of the most important things to have in your professional career. The idea is simple: the mentee is a goal-driven learner while the mentor is an experience-driven guide whose role is to offer insights that help in the process of self-discovery, problem solving and growth. The better you understand these roles, the easier it will be to successfully navigate a mentor and mentee relationship.

Below, we’ll cover a few key topics related to the mentee & mentor relationship:

Are you the mentor? Mentee? A potential program administrator trying to launch a program? Don’t hesitate to skip to whichever section speaks directly to your situation.

Take it with you:

Create More Successful Mentoring Relationships: Download our Free Mentoring Partnership Agreement

Who Needs Mentoring?

Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking to jumpstart your career, or have been in your chosen field and profession for a couple of years and want to continue to gain knowledge and experience to climb the corporate ladder, a mentor is an essential piece of the puzzle. In fact, 86% of CEOs reported that mentors were essential to their career success.

A stressed worker within a mentor & mentee relationship.

This is why finding and working with a good mentor is often regarded as a defining moment for the careers of many people/ they can fast-track your personal and professional growth and help you meet both your short-term and long-term career goals. Consequently, this is why companies around the world still hold mentoring programs. While they’re often assumed to be informal relationships (and many are), it is the best way to keep good employees engaged and grow with the company.

But what actually constitutes a successful mentor-mentee relationship? What are the roles and responsibilities of each? More importantly, how do you start a good mentor-mentee relationship?

Insight into the Mentor-Mentee Relationship

A successful mentor-mentee relationship starts at the match. When mentors and mentees are effectively matched, the relationship is more likely to succeed. Matching has historically been done by hand, with administrators sending out brief personality surveys, hand-selecting mentors and mentees, and then matching profiles based on the results — again, all by hand.

As you might imagine, the traditional way of matching is exceptionally slow, prone to bias, and leads to significant program limitations. Mentoring software offers a better solution for this. If your organization is not using mentoring software to create matches, we recommend your request it, especially if your mentoring program is tied to any organizational objectives, such as reducing turnover/increasing retention, developing stronger leadership pipelines, or creating a more diverse workforce.

Looking to boost the size and effectiveness of mentoring at your company? Check out this video about enterprise mentoring software.

Even the most successful people (in any field) have mentors

Henry David Thoreau had Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Oprah Winfrey had Maya Angelou.

Bill Gates had Warren Buffet.

The list goes on and on.

These successful people exemplify how mentorship can provide tremendous benefits for both the mentors and the mentees. You’ll find some of the biggest and well-known household names talk about and share quotes about mentoring because of the value it holds. The relationship between mentor and mentee is mutually beneficial as both parties learn from each other, discover new things, build networks, and develop as professionals.

Mentorship cultivates learning and development

Mentor & mentee meeting for leadership development.

A mentoring relationship can start from personal connections, networking, or formal mentorship programs. Most successful organizations offer formal and structured mentoring programs, with 98% of Fortune 500 companies delivering these programs across a range of areas, including onboarding, functional skills development, career development, leadership development, reverse mentoring, and affinity-based programs.

In the case of companies and organizations, a mentoring program allows employees to learn from the best people in the company and grow with the company. This means as mentees learn the ins and outs of the industry and gain knowledge, skills, and experience, they will mentor also learn to see things from different (and often new) perspectives. The mentors learn how to communicate better with junior members of the team and cultivate their potential.

Essentially, both mentees and mentors benefit tremendously from these relationships.

Employees with good mentors stay longer

A CNBC survey revealed that 94% of people would stay longer at their organization if the company offered learning and development. That’s not just significant. It’s huge. It also makes sense. When companies offer learning and development opportunities, it means:

  • They value employee retention
  • They’re confident in their hiring practices
  • They want to see their workers grow and take on new roles
  • They understand the importance of internal knowledge
  • They’ve seen, experienced, or learned just how costly turnover can be

Mentoring is one of several solutions for learning and development, but many companies have discovered it’s one of the best options for organic, people-driven employee engagement that meets multiple learning and development goals.

The impact of a mentoring relationship in the workplace is tremendous, especially for young up-and-comers. A good mentorship program can develop potentially good employees and keep more of them for longer.

Mentorship improves engagement

Good mentors know how to motivate mentees. This is because the latter identify themselves and align their goals with their mentees. And while mentees take every opportunity to learn from their mentors, both hold each other accountable, which strengthens the social ties between junior employees and their seniors.

That creates a win-win for the mentees and mentors, and for the business. A whopping 88% of people involved in mentoring programs as mentees report being more productive at work. Productivity and engagement go hand-in-hand. When you’re happy with the progress, the job, and your work culture, you’re far more likely to put in more effort.

 Qualities of a Successful Mentoring Relationship

Image of a successful mentoring relationship.

Since each individual is unique, and each person has their own preferences, needs, goals, and aspirations, you can safely say that no two mentor-mentee relationships are the same. There are also no hard and fast rules in mentoring that everyone should abide by, although your organization may benefit from setting clear goals for structured mentoring programs.

There are, however, key qualities of successful mentoring:

  • There should be mutual respect between the mentor and the mentee
  • Both should respect each other’s time
  • Both parties should be willing to help each other succeed
  • Both the mentor and the mentee should give and receive feedback
  • Both parties should be able share information as needed
  • Both should actively listen and communicate without fear of judgment
  • Mentor should empathize with their mentee, and vice versa

How you organize your relationship will determine the outcome. Go in with the right expectations and clearly-stated goals to achieve, as well as milestones to mark progress along the way.

Benefits of Mentoring Programs To the Mentee

Because mentees are the focal point of mentoring programs, they’re also the primary beneficiary of the end results. Mentorship helps improve all of the following for mentees:

  • Increased productivity
  • Build connections that lead to more career opportunities
  • Refine skills that lead to better on-the-job performance
  • Work toward achieving short- and long-term career goals
  • Gain a strong sense of personal career satisfaction
  • Develop a stronger connection to the company and colleagues (especially in a remote work environment)

Mentors help mentees reach their goals in a lot of ways, from providing professional guidance, practical real-life insights, and of course, honest feedback.

Consequently, mentees are held accountable by their mentors. Letting yourself down is one thing, but letting someone you respect dearly and look up to, who has given you his support, and vouched for you, get disappointed by your actions (or lack thereof), decisions, etc., is an entirely different thing.

Importnatly, mentors help mentees expand their network and gain access to people that can further both career and professional development. Mentees could even gain another mentor in the process.

Lastly, mentees eventually become mentors themselves, and the cycle goes on and on. That’s always a boon for sustaining mentoring programs long-term.

Key Benefits of Mentorship Program to the Mentor

Image of mentor & mentee enjoying the benefits of mentoring.

We’ve talked in detail about the benefits of mentoring before. Mentoring relationship gives a sense of purpose to mentors. While they can add exceptional value to their mentee’s development, a mentee’s success can easily become a mentor’s legacy. What’s more, those mentors may eventually turn into sponsors who can help the mentee reach new career heights.

The mentee’s success shows the value of their mentor. And if people see that, more people will show interest in collaborating with the mentor for more mentorship programs.

With that said, the mentorship programs can do all of the following:

  • Improve the interaction skills of the mentor
  • Give mentors space to improve their “soft skills” like active listening, patience, and empathy
  • Boost important leadership skills
  • Allow mentors to expand their network to junior-level team members
  • Break down knowledge silos within the organization
  • Build strong culture within the organization more organically

Once established and normalized, mentorship programs quickly become valuable assets to any organization. The experiences mentees and mentees have in mentorship programs lead to intrinsic and professional benefits for participants, and very tangible financial benefits for the company.

Benefits of Mentoring Programs to the Organization

Companies and organizations with good mentorship programs have the best chance of recruiting and keeping the best employees. And when companies use MentorcliQ’s mentoring software, they boost retention by 76%, on average. Mentoring allows companies to see the potential of candidates and what they can bring to the table for the organization.

As a huge additional bonus, mentoring maintains the “institutional memory” and best practices of the company through passing knowledge, tactics, skills, or even trade secrets, from one generation of talent to the next. Letting that knowledge go right out the door is exceptionally hard to calculate, but can easily cost an organization hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in lost productivity as the “brain drain” leads to inefficiencies.

Roles of Mentors and Mentees

For parties to reap the benefits, the mentor and the mentee need to understand and play their roles.

Mentor Roles

A mentor serves as a guide and support for the mentee’s goals and objectives. In a mentor-mentee relationship, the former will have to wear different hats and take on different responsibilities to help the latter learn and achieve their goals.

With that said, a mentor is someone who has vast knowledge, skills, and experience in working in the industry and with the said company. They act as an advisor, trainer, or teacher to the less experienced. They help their mentees grow and develop as professionals and offer advice, guidance, and insights through their advanced knowledge and experience. A good mentor is passionate about teaching and cultivating mentees.

Note that there’s no specific limitation on who can be a mentor. Because the mentor role is experience-based, mentees can come from across the organization, even at the junior level. That’s why reverse mentoring programs are becoming so common. They start from the understanding that even executive leaders have something to learn, and younger workers can often be valuable guides in that learning process.

Provider of resources and recommendations

A common mentoring program best practice is having menotrs identify the right resources to recommend and use to help their mentees grow and develop personally and professionally. This includes knowing what books, learning tools, and workshops to recommend, etc.

Expanding networks can’t be ignored, either. Mentors must encourage their mentees to join organizations that can help expand their network and introduce them to new people for new contacts. Doing is often better than just saying, however, so organizing mentoring activities will go a long way to making this actionable.

Champion and cheerleader

Mentors should be the support system of their mentees. They should know when and how to say the right words of encouragement and support to their mentees. They should teach mentees to step out of their comfort zone and not be afraid to expand their reach, learn, and make mistakes. More importantly, mentors must learn how to celebrate their mentees’ success, no matter how big or small.

While a mentor is a role model, they don’t mind sharing or even giving the spotlight to their mentees, which is crucial mentee’s development. Moreover, mentors should support their mentees when their mentees eventually face challenges and setbacks.


Engaging with mentorship at the office in hammock chairs.

While having encouraging words is important, an effective mentor should not sugar-coat to protect mentees’ feelings. Mentors learn how to play devil’s advocate and they should have no problems giving constructive feedback that their mentees need to hear to move forward and become better.

Think of it this way. When your mentee comes to you about an action they took or an action they failed to take that would have been beneficial, just letting it sit unaddressed is more harmful than it is helpful.

Mentors should know what buttons to push and when to push them to encourage their mentees to take risks when it is appropriate. Moreover, they should teach their mentees how to consider different options, weigh different outcomes and consequences of their actions and decisions, and how to better avoid undesirable surprises and pitfalls.

Mentee Roles

It takes two to tango, right? In the case of mentoring relationships, a good mentee must be willing to work with their mentor. They need to know how to communicate what they want out of the mentoring process or mentoring program. Additionally, they need to know how and what questions to ask.

Like the mentor roles, mentees will also have to play different multiple roles in a mentoring relationship.

Relationship drivers

Mentees must learn how to identify the skills, knowledge, as well as their own goals to get the most out of the mentoring process. Moreover, mentees must also learn to communicate with their mentor; bring up topics that are important, share updates on their development, ask questions, and even give their feedback to their mentors. Open-ended questions are great and must be followed by follow-up questions frequently.

Student of the game

Mentees basically take on the student role, but may also be responsible for driving their own ship, so to speak. Thus mentees should take every opportunity to learn, even on things that are outside the mentee-mentor relationship.

An effective mentee is one that absorbs knowledge from their mentor-mentee interactions and then squeezes out that knowledge in real-world practice. Then, they should have the motivation to come back to their mentor and discuss what actions they took and seek insight on whether those actions were good, bad, or somewhere in between. The process of action and self-reflection is essential for growth.

Planners and organizers

Mentees should take on the initiative to work with their mentor. They should be proactive in meeting their mentor’s schedule, setting the agendas for the latter’s meetings, and creating action plans for both short and long-term goals.

Consider using a structured goal-setting method. That could include REAL goals, which is our recommended strategy.

Also, mentees should prepare any questions they may have for their mentors. This allows both parties to maximize their time together, get more work done, and focus on the things that matter most.

 Since mentorship is a termed relationship, both parties should commit fully to making the relationship work. This means both the mentor and mentee should consider the best interest of each other. With that said, both should keep the agenda of each meeting focused to achieve each other’s goals. 

Goal planning on a white sheet for mentor & mentee meetings.

Aside from being committed and prepared, the relationship must be built upon:

  • Trust and respect
  • Understanding each other’s opinions and perspectives
  • Open and honest communication
  • Determination to face challenges and overcome obstacles.

A successful mentor-mentee relationship goes beyond giving and receiving career advice. The relationship is structured from the roles and responsibilities of each party, and the benefit they get from each other. As with other relationships, mentor-mentee relationships will face challenges and obstacles, and each party will have differing opinions on things. However, both should be willing to work through their differences and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.

Communication is the key to a successful mentor-mentee relationship. For a mentoring program to work there needs to be good and open communication between the mentor and the mentee. This means the mentor must have good communication skills to effectively guide and help the mentee learn and understand certain topics.

While the focus of the relationship is for the mentee to learn as much as possible from the mentor for their professional growth, the former should also consider what and how the mentor can benefit from their relationship. Mentors volunteer their time to share their knowledge and experience.

Mentees should never forget to articulate their appreciation and gratitude. They should let their mentor know they are learning and are appreciative of their mentor’s time and effort.

Tips for a Successful Mentorship Program

Here are five tips to start and keep a great mentor-mentee relationship:

1. Search for similar qualities

When looking for a mentor, look for similarities and things you have in common with your prospective mentors. This will help you find the personal connection you need for a good and fruitful professional relationship. This can be anything from shared passion, hobby, or simply by being in the same city, etc.

2. Trust the process

As with any relationship, mentorship requires dedication and commitment from both parties with one providing support to the other. Without these two, there will be no discipline, responsibility, or accountability to work on, and this can easily lead to failure.

3. Set personal and professional goals

A mentoring process should bear success, but first, you have to define what success looks like. This is why you need to set your goals to measure your progress and success.

4. Set realistic expectations

Be realistic about what you expect from the relationship. Mentors should help their mentees set realistic expectations, while mentees should be upfront about what they want from the program.

5. Keep communication lines open

Mentors must encourage the communication and participation of their mentees. Mentees should always remember that their mentor is there for them as their guide.

Mentors must make sure to answer their mentee’s questions. Respond to their emails, and provide the guidance, information, and resources they need to help in their career trajectory. Mentees must be polite and courteous when asking questions and be considerate of their mentor’s time.

Additionally, mentors must engage in their own learning while mentoring. They should learn how to ask questions, collaborate with the right people, and experiment with different things.

6. Build trust

As with any relationship, there must be trust between each other for the mentor and mentee relationship to work. Both parties must be able to align their values and principles with each other. Mentors should be honest but tactful in their evaluations, and mentees should have no problem letting their mentors know if they understand things fully, or if they have a differing opinion on important matters that concerns them both.

Take the Next Step with Mentoring Programs

Understanding your role as a mentee or a mentor is only the first step. If you’re not involved in a mentoring program, now is a great time to get the ball rolling. Of course, that assumes that you have mentoring programs available at your organization.

  • For mentees or mentors, your voice is valuable. If your company doesn’t have mentoring programs available, share these mentoring stats with your leaders and let them why mentoring is a great fit for any organization.
  • For organizational leaders, get started building your mentoring programs today. Turnover is expensive. Mentoring programs increase retention and save money, all while improving the strength of your teams and your company culture. Book a demo today to learn more.
Sam Cook

An email you’ll actually love

Get expert tips and techniques about Mentor & Mentee: What Are Their Roles and Responsibilities?.

Sent once per month. Containing valuable content.

Subscribe to the newsletter