What Mentees Should Know Before Beginning a Mentoring Relationship

Posted by eporter on June 28, 2024

What Mentees Should Know Before Beginning a Mentoring Relationship

Most mentors receive pre-match training and resources from their mentoring program’s staff to prepare for their mentoring relationships before meeting their mentee for the first time. However, many mentees do not receive pre-match training that teaches them strategies to contribute to their mentoring relationship, and mentees often report not knowing what to expect from mentoring.

When program staff do not provide mentees with training or resources to prepare for their mentoring relationships, mentees may not understand what mentoring is, what they will do as a mentee, or how they can benefit from mentoring. This uncertainty can make mentees nervous to participate in a mentoring program or apprehensive during meetings with their mentors.

Entering the mentoring relationship with confidence may produce better outcomes for mentees, so it is important that mentees are provided with training that builds their confidence in their abilities to be a mentee, helps them form positive beliefs about mentoring, and teaches them how to create a strong relationship with their mentor. Below, we have outlined important information that mentoring program staff should provide mentees with before their mentoring relationships begin to promote more effective, long-lasting relationships.

Benefits of mentoring

A significant motivating factor for young people who are contemplating entering a mentoring relationship is their understanding of the ways mentoring can benefit them. Some young people may not understand what a mentoring program is or how a mentoring relationship differs from other relationships that they are already engaged in, such as friendships or family relationships. Program staff should teach mentees how mentoring relationships can positively impact their academic, social, professional, and emotional well-being. By understanding the unique benefits of mentoring relationships, mentees may be more motivated to participate.

Roles and responsibilities

Before entering a mentoring relationship, young people may feel that they do not know how to be a mentee or feel afraid that they will be given daunting responsibilities. Discussing the roles in a mentoring relationship may ease mentees’ anxiety about what they will be expected to do as a mentee and build their confidence in their abilities to be a mentee. In addition, pre-match training is an opportunity to teach mentees ways to contribute to a strong, long-lasting relationship. For example, program staff should teach mentees how to be engaged, respectful, and open-minded during the relationship in order to maximize positive outcomes for mentees and prevent conflict during the relationship.

Realistic expectations

Knowing what to expect when meeting with a mentor may help mentees feel more comfortable before and during their match meetings. For example, giving mentees examples of fun, safe activities that matches can do together may prevent mentees from believing that mentoring will be boring or uncomfortable. Program staff should inform mentees about how often they will meet with their mentor, what types of activities they may do with their mentor, and what topics they may discuss as a match.

Importantly, mentoring program staff should aim to help mentees form realistic expectations for mentoring. Explaining the benefits of mentoring is a helpful way to build mentees’ motivations for mentoring, but these topics must be balanced with realistic, honest portrayals of mentoring experiences. If a mentee forms unrealistically positive expectations for mentoring before meeting with a mentor, they may be more likely to lose motivation, or even end their relationship early, if they encounter unexpected challenges or conflict with their mentor during the relationship.


Teaching mentees about healthy boundaries in a mentoring relationship can help mentees feel safer and more comfortable entering a relationship. Program staff should teach mentees things their mentors should and should not do, as well as what to do if their mentor disrespects healthy mentoring boundaries. For example, mentees should understand that mentors do not play the same roles as the mentees’ parents and to notify program staff and a parent if their mentor is doing things that are not their responsibility.

Mentees may develop more trust in mentoring program staff and confidence in their abilities to be a mentee when they know that there are steps that they can take if their mentor crosses a line or disrespects healthy boundaries.

Tips for first match meetings

Providing tips to mentees for meeting with their mentor for the first time can also help mentees feel more prepared for the mentoring relationship. Pre-match trainings and activities may give mentees the opportunities to practice making introductions during the first time they meet with their mentor and set expectations for what may happen during their first match meeting. Understanding what to expect can ease anxiety that mentees may have about meeting an unfamiliar adult for the first time. In addition, program staff should provide mentees with tips for communicating with their mentor to discuss their interests and plan fun match activities with their mentor. Letting mentees know that they have a voice and an active part in planning match activities may help mentees feel important and safe when beginning a relationship with a mentor.

Comprehensive training for mentees

Building the Foundation for Mentees is a research-informed mentee training that contains all of the important information mentioned above to give mentees a solid foundation for their mentoring relationship. The training teaches mentees what mentoring is, roles and responsibilities of mentees, healthy boundaries in mentoring relationships, realistic expectations for mentoring, and tips for their first meetings with their mentors. With instructional materials to conduct the live, in-person or virtual Building the Foundation for Mentees training workshop, mentoring program staff may be able to build mentees’ motivation to participate in their program, promote more effective relationships, and prevent relationship challenges that can result in premature closure.

To start offering comprehensive, research-informed training to mentees to prepare them for an impactful mentoring experience, visit our website to get started.