Organisational Development

Guidance for mentees

Learn more about the benefits of mentoring, key considerations for mentees, and what to do if the mentoring relationship is not working for you.

The benefits of mentoring

Mentoring can offer many personal and professional benefits at any stage of your career, including:

  • a supportive relationship and safe space to explore professional challenges
  • confidential and objective discussions
  • new insights and the ability to view things from different perspectives
  • guidance from a more experienced colleague
  • constructive feedback that challenges you to adopt new ways of thinking
  • tailored support appropriate to your situation
  • space to think about longer term development goals

Two people in a meeting

Becoming a Mentee: How to get the most from mentoring

Organisational Development offer the Becoming a Mentee workshop for all staff interested in joining the Staff Mentoring Programme as a mentee. The workshop covers:

  • How the Staff Mentoring Programme works at the University of Sussex
  • How mentoring can enhance your personal and professional development
  • How to get the most out of a mentoring relationship at any career stage.

View the mentoring workshops calendar to see upcoming workshop dates.

What mentoring is not designed for

It is important to have realistic expectations of what your mentor can and cannot support you with. This should form part of your initial meeting with your mentor and you should both have a clear understanding of the expected outcomes of the mentoring relationship.

Direction or management

Mentoring is distinct from management in that you, as the mentee, direct the relationship. Your mentor should not direct you towards any particular course of action, the only agenda the mentor has is to support you in your development – wherever that may lead.

Specialist training or advice

Your mentor will not be in a position to offer specialist training or advice (for example, therapy, legal, careers guidance, HR, clinical). Your mentor may be able to assist you in finding out where to access specialist information or support, but should not be expected to provide advice on areas beyond their expertise.

Professional challenges

If you go into a mentoring relationship expecting your mentor to solve your problems, you will be disappointed. Your mentor’s role is to support you in developing your own ideas and solutions to overcome challenges and progress towards your goals. The best solutions to your challenges will come from within you. Your mentor will help you find them by listening to you, asking you questions, exploring a range of perspectives and where appropriate sharing their own experiences.

Before becoming a mentee

To give your mentoring arrangement the best chance of success, before you meet your mentor, it is worth spending some time considering:

  • your reasons for seeking mentoring and any particular goals or requirements that you have
  • what you need to know about your mentor and what they need to know about you
  • how you will know if the mentoring relationship is working and what a successful outcome is
  • what type of support you need from a mentor? Are there any particular agreements you need to seek from them (e.g. level of challenge, confidentiality agreements, meeting arrangements etc.)?
  • any barriers that might prevent you from getting the most from mentoring and what you can do to overcome them
  • where you would like to meet (in person or online) and how often

During your first meeting

This stage is known as ‘contracting’.

  • Have an open discussion about your hopes and expectations of mentoring.
  • Agree practicalities such as meeting times, duration of relationship, contact between meetings etc.

We encourage both potential mentees and mentors to be proactive in checking your compatibility during this first session. If at this stage either party feels that it is not a good fit, it is absolutely ok to say so, wish each other the best, and look for another match.

Throughout the mentoring relationship

  • Be open and honest with your mentor, they can only help you based on the information you choose to disclose. Also provide honest and constructive feedback to your mentor about how the mentoring sessions are working for you.
  • Keep to your commitments, follow through with agreed actions and be proactive in your development, both during and between mentoring meetings.

We have also provided guidance on what to do if the mentoring relationship is not working for you.

Feedback from mentees

Read about the experiences of colleagues and how mentoring has supported their professional development.

Clare Callow, Global Health Research Centre Project Manager

"My experience of mentoring has been very positive so far. I didn’t really know what to expect from the scheme, I just had a feeling that I was cruising along in my career and perhaps needed to take more control over the direction in which it is going, and thought a mentor might help to give some clarity on how to do this.

The first session involved a discussion about my broad career aspirations, my experience, and was helpful for us to get to know each other. I got some very useful tips on how to dedicate time to myself amongst the general chaos that is being a working mother. The other two sessions have focussed variously on my workload, office politics, how to delegate, supervision of staff, team dynamics and how to focus on the most interesting/valuable parts of your job, or those that need more ‘strategic thinking’.

Each time I meet my mentor I am amazed when the session ends that we have spent an hour in discussion, I usually feel quite nervous ahead of the sessions, and worry that I won’t have much to say, but then suddenly an hour has passed and we still have so much to discuss! Each session has been incredibly useful and rewarding, but I would say that the most important things I have got out of the scheme so far are the ability to focus on those aspects of my role which are most rewarding, and the ability to find time to take charge of my career path.

I would say to colleagues thinking about being mentored: Do it! But don’t go in to the process with rigid expectations of the outcomes – there should be a little flexibility to allow personalities to work with each other, and let discussion flow in order to make the most out of the sessions."

Clare Callow, Global Health Research Centre Project Manager, BSMS

Sarah Johnson, Curriculum and Assessment Officer

Member of staff photo"I initially heard of the mentoring scheme at Sussex from looking on Organisational Development’s website. I was interested in the scheme because I was looking for ways to progress in my career at the University and thought it might be good to talk with a more senior colleague about this. I had been mentored in the past at a previous workplace and had found it helpful to talk through my experiences and discuss different options that were open to me. I was hoping that a mentor would be able to help me understand how to progress within the HE sector and provide a space where I could explore my own professional narrative.

I was apprehensive before I met my mentor for the first time, but soon felt very comfortable in her company. We focused on what I was looking for in the mentor relationship and agreed some areas we could work on together. I made sure to write up notes of our discussions immediately afterwards, whilst they were fresh in my mind and noted agreed actions that we would both do before we next met. Meeting for 1 hour per month was not very much time out of my work-day and I was glad to have the support of my manager to take the time to reflect on my career path. We agreed to meet once per month for a year and I was reassured that I could email my mentor in-between sessions if I wanted to. Later on we discussed specific jobs that I was applying for, preparing for interviews, and debriefing afterwards together. It helped my confidence immensely to have someone to discuss the highs and lows of this process with; and I am very grateful to my mentor for her continued support, even after our mentoring relationship has officially come to an end.

I was pleased to be offered a promotion within the University 6 months into being mentored. As my original goal of progression had been reached, the discussions in the remaining sessions focussed on transitioning between different roles and management styles. I was pleasantly surprised at how effective mentoring was for me and I think the main value in the relationship is having a professional friend who you can discuss challenges with in a confidential environment. I would absolutely recommend mentoring to other colleagues because the space to reflect upon your ambitions is so helpful. In fact, I was inspired to become a mentor myself and now aim to help others to progress and discuss whatever would be most beneficial for them at the time."

Sarah Johnson, Curriculum and Assessment Officer, LPS

Matt Bemment, Communications Assistant

Staff Photo"I joined the Staff Mentoring Programme at the University of Sussex predominantly to discuss my role and ambitions with a mentor who could offer a fresh perspective. 

As a member of staff at the Medical School (BSMS), it has been incredibly useful to have a mentor who understands my role but uses different software, systems and resources.  Not only has this helped me to find solutions in my own role day-to-day, it has also made me aware of things I didn't know existed before taking part in the scheme.  The Organisational Development team at the University of Sussex aim to match mentees and mentors based on job roles and experiences, and I'm impressed by how well they've delivered on that.

Since our initial meeting, my mentor has been incredibly supportive and encouraging. She has also been a brilliant sounding board for ideas, giving me some really useful skills and ideas to consider, and I have been able to put some of these into practice in a short space of time.

I am thoroughly enjoying being a mentee on this scheme and would encourage anyone to take part - whether you are looking to discuss your barriers and ambitions, build on existing skills and knowledge or simply find a friendly companion who is willing to draw on their own career experiences in order to benefit your own."

Matt Bemment, Communications Assistant, BSMS

Mar Balboa Carbon, Communications Officer

"I joined the mentoring programme only a few months after I had started my job as Communications Officer in the School of Psychology. As I was the only communications person in the School, I felt I would benefit from the advice of a more experienced colleague who could provide constructive feedback and a different perspective to my ideas. I specifically asked for someone who had experience working in communications. I knew I was taking a risk because there were many chances that none of the volunteering mentors met my requirement, but I also knew that somebody with that experience would be able to provide concrete feedback to my queries and I was prepared to wait until that person appeared.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long and the whole experience was very positive: I learnt a lot and I feel more confident about my own work as a result of the mentoring sessions. In general, we discussed career development (e.g. identifying skills that I should acquire to become better at my job) and specific projects I was working on. We met monthly, and I prepared a brief agenda for every session. As my School had not had a Communications Officer before me, I spent most of last academic year reviewing the School’s communications needs and setting up new processes. I used the sessions to discuss my ideas and get feedback. At the end of every meeting, I filled the report and wrote action points for me to do next. This helped me keep track of my progress.

Presenting my ideas about a particular project to my mentor forced me to reflect more on what I was doing and why. Her feedback was always very positive and constructive, and having these sessions made me feel more confident when I had to present the project to my line-manager and other stakeholders.

My mentor was also very supportive in terms of my development. She encouraged me to enrol in the Aspiring Managers course at the University, and I am currently doing an apprenticeship in digital marketing. In both cases, it was my manager who suggested the course, but my mentor’s support and advice were the final push I needed. She also helped me arrange a job shadowing experience with the External Relations team.

I would encourage any colleague to take part in the mentoring scheme, but I would also advise them to first think what they want to get out of it and what kind of mentor they need. They don’t need to be as specific as I was, but having an idea of what you are trying to achieve will help them and their mentors set short and long-term goals."

Mar Balboa Carbon, Communications Officer, School of Psychology

What to do if the mentoring arrangement is not working

Hopefully you will find yourself in a productive mentoring relationship that is rewarding for both mentee and mentor. However, mentoring arrangements can and do break down for a variety of reasons.

Signs that a mentoring relationship is not working might be: 

  • Mentee/mentor cancels appointments, fails to turn up or regularly rearranges last minute
  • Mentee/mentor consistently fails to make progress on actions identified in meetings
  • Mentee/mentor appears distracted in sessions or cuts sessions short

Ending a mentoring arrangement early

If the mentoring arrangement is not working for you, it is best to respectfully end the relationship and move forwards.

Acknowledge the issue openly.

Be honest and tell the other person that you feel that something isn’t working with the mentoring arrangement, giving factual examples of why you think this. Explore whether there are things you could both do to get the relationship working more effectively.

Seek your mentor's perspective

Ask the other person for feedback on how they are finding the mentoring arrangement – it might be that they think everything is going well or have similar concerns to you. Either way, you will have more information to help you decide how to proceed.

End mentoring relationships constructively.

Not all mentoring relationships work out, and it is not useful to prolong the arrangement if it is clear that it is not working. Don’t leave your mentor hanging. Instead, have a constructive discussion about how you can progress beyond this mentoring arrangement. See if your mentor has suggestions of other support or information that might be useful to you, and of course, thank them for the support they have provided you during the mentoring arrangement (however brief).

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Contact and advice

Organisational Development
Sussex House SH-230
01273 075533 (ext 5533)