Mentee Orientation Tutorial

Shakespeare said, "All the world is a stage", and Mentoring is no exception. As you interact with your Mentor, you will find yourself taking up certain roles – some more effective than others. When used appropriately, roles like the ‘Inquirer’, the ‘Player’ and the ‘Networker’, are the hallmarks of effective Mentees.

This module assists Mentees to become more aware of the roles they use with their Mentors. It will help you identify how you prefer to learn and provide some useful suggestions for how to keep your Mentoring relationship going. We will also examine some of the pitfalls to avoid.

Roles of the Effective Mentee Mentees – Useful Tips
     The Inquirer      Questions to establish rapport
     The Player      Questions to agree learning outcomes
     The Networker      Questions to generate Discussion Topics
Learning Preferences      When to Analyse, Practice or Talk
What is your Learning Preference?      Complementary Roles and Preferences of Mentors and Mentees
     Analysing How to provide feedback to your Mentor

How to respond to a Mentor that rejects your suggestions/feedback

     Sharing Common Pitfalls of Mentees

Roles of the Effective Mentee

What makes a role effective is knowing when to use it. There are an infinite number of roles to choose from, but the most effective roles are usually those that complement the Mentor’s roles. (see Roles of the Effective Mentor). For example, a Mentee with a Mentor who prefers being in a "Sounding Board" role and explaining topics, would be complemented by a Mentor who has a well developed "Inquirer" role that likes analysing and asking questions.

Amongst the array of roles that Mentees display, we have identified three main roles that distinguish effective Mentees.

The Inquirer

Mentees who have a strong Inquirer role are typically interested in building their professional expertise. As such they most complement Mentors who prefer the role of ‘Sounding Board’ and explaining (see Mentors’ module). They like to know what topics will be covered in advance and to see how they will lead to achieving Learning Outcomes that are important to them professionally.

When they respect the technical expertise of their Mentor, they will gladly conduct research on discussion topics and analyse the key issues. They enjoy identifying logical inconsistencies within others’ arguments and asking probing questions that expose them. As such, they are likely to challenge the views of their Mentor and learn most from debating topics/issues.

When possessing a curious attitude, these Mentees devour information and are receptive to their Mentor’s arguments. However, if they have use their analytical skills with a critical attitude, they can become aloof and defensive when confronted with constructive feedback. Indeed, some may put off actually applying their new knowledge in favour of continuing their analysis.

In summary, Mentees with well developed "Inquirer" roles learn by using their intellect, analysing what they need to learn and asking questions to enhance their professional expertise.

The Player

The desire of these Mentees to combine having fun with being actively involved in the Mentoring process makes the role name, "Player", particularly appropriate. As such they complement Mentors who prefer the role of being a "Leader" and coaching (see Mentors’ module).

They are most interested in Mentoring making a practical difference to their current work and lives. In this regard, their Learning Outcomes usually target skills and knowledge designed to lift their current work performance.

Similarly, the topics and questions raised by these Mentees usually relate to current worklife incidents. Requests to research and analyse topics are less likely to excite the "Player" Mentee. Instead, practice sessions are more likely to be grounded in emailed samples of work. By making these practice sessions fun, the "Player" Mentee can experiment with new ways of working.

In their rush to action, over confident "Player" Mentees can sometimes suffer the consequences of being impulsive and under prepared. Their lack of analysis can sometimes lead them in the wrong direction.

In short, Mentees with a "Player" role like to have fun practising new skills, knowledge and attitudes with their Mentor and to put them into action in their current worklives.

The Networker

The Mentee who is in the "Networker" role typically prefers to share with someone than spend time thinking through a worklife problem.

At the beginning of the Mentoring relationship, these Mentees are likely to be open to asking others for feedback on their current skills, knowledge and attitudes. Having gathered these views, they are likely to want to share their findings with their Mentor and agree their Learning Outcomes.

Because not all the feedback may be what they expected, such Mentees will often seek out their Mentor’s support and encouragement. In this way, the "Networker" Mentees complement the Mentors who prefer being in the role of "Supporter" and encouraging their Mentees (see Mentors’ module).

Discussion topics often centre around incidents that occur in the Mentee’s worklife and the development of relationships with other work colleagues. Feelings can run high and if a Mentor does not acknowledge those feelings, a "Networker" Mentees can quickly feel misunderstood and ignored. Slow replies from a Mentor may also generate these feelings, so it is important that both Mentor and Mentee respect the demands of their busy lives.

Sometimes the disclosure of personal issues can impinge upon the professional Mentoring relationship and the achievement of Learning Outcomes. When this is managed effectively, the Mentor becomes an key contact in the Mentee’s professional network. Having said that, it is important to encourage the Mentee to have a range of contacts, otherwise some Mentees can develop a dependency on the Mentor’s opinions.

To sum up, Mentees with a well developed "Networker" role value the views of others, enjoy learning by sharing their experiences and receiving the support of others around them.

Learning Preferences

Just as we prefer to use our right or left hands to write, so in Mentoring we have preferences to use different roles and take certain actions. Some actions seem to come more naturally and require less effort to do well. We call these actions our "learning preferences".

In this section, we will discuss three learning preferences that relate to the three roles that effective Mentees use. (see The Roles of the Effective Mentees section).

Learning Preferences Related Mentee Roles
Analysing Inquirer
Practising Player
Sharing Networker

 As you read this section, ask yourself, "What Mentee roles and actions do I find most easy to do well – which require the least effort and come the most naturally?" These will be your learning preferences.

What is your Learning Preference?


Mentors who have a well developed "Inquirer" role tend to prefer to learn by analysing the different components and issues involved in different skills, knowledge and attitudes. Shown below are some behaviours that describe a Mentee with a "Analysing" learning preference.

  • Uses a skills list or survey to identify their current skills, knowledge and attitudes.
  • Breaks down the Learning Outcomes into component parts and steps.
  • Prepares a schedule of topics to discuss with the Mentor that links with the Learning Outcomes.
  • Gathers information about discussion topics and sends it to the Mentor to read.
  • Raises issues and questions that identify inconsistencies within and between different views.
  • Debates issues and challenges the Mentor’s views from time to time.
  • Prepares plans and scripts of proposed views and actions.
  • Assesses own progress towards chosen Learning Outcomes.

Consider the above Mentoring actions. Are they the type of actions that come naturally to you without much effort? If so, your Mentoring preference is probably "Analysing". If not, read about the Mentoring actions that typify the Practising and Sharing learning preferences.


Mentors who have a well developed "Player" role tend to prefer to learn by practising the different components and issues involved in different knowledge areas and skills. Shown below are some behaviours that describe a Mentee with a "Practising" learning preference.

  • Sends brief emails minimising the use of concepts.
  • Proposes Learning Outcomes that directly impact issues in the Mentee’s current worklife.
  • Requests Mentor to give feedback and suggestions on how to improve specific work incidents and documents.
  • Gets impatient if the practical application of theories are not pointed out promptly.
  • Thinks of ways to make Mentoring discussions fun. Uses humour.
  • Puts Mentor’s suggestion into practice relatively quickly.
  • May revert to old ways of working if early attempts at new skills/knowledge/attitudes do not meet with success.

Consider the above Mentoring actions. Are they the type of actions that come naturally to you without much effort? If so, your Mentoring preference is probably "Practising". If not, read about the Mentoring actions that typify the Analysing and Sharing learning preferences.


Mentors who have a well developed "Networker" role tend to prefer to learn by sharing with others their experience of using different skills, knowledge and attitudes. Shown below are some behaviours that describe a Mentee with a "Sharing" learning preference.

  • Asks other people for their views on their current and future capabilities.
  • Shares other peoples’ views with their Mentor to agree Learning Outcomes.
  • Discloses aspects of their personal lives relatively early in the Mentoring relationship.
  • Learning Outcomes relate mainly to people and the Mentee’s future career.
  • Opens Mentoring discussions usually by sharing what has been happening in their work and personal lives.
  • Discuss options in terms of professional and personal ethics, rather than solutions to specific issues.
  • Evaluates progress towards Learning Outcomes by asking others for feedback.

Consider the above Mentoring actions. Are they the type of actions that come naturally to you without much effort? If so, your Mentoring preference is probably "Sharing". If not, read about the Mentoring actions that typify the Analysing and Practising learning preferences.

Mentees – Useful Tips

Like a writer with writer’s block, there are times when as a Mentee you will ask yourself, "Where do I start?" and "Where to next?" This section provides Mentees with a list of useful tips on how to keep your Mentoring relationship growing. These suggestions are organised around the five key tasks of the "e-Mentoring Cycle".

Questions to establish rapport

  • Tell me about your career to date?
  • What work are you doing currently?
  • Have you had a Mentor?
  • Do you have a Mentor now?
  • What work do you want to be doing in the future?
  • Where have you studied?
  • What professional/industry association do you belong to?
  • What is your favourite way of spending your spare time?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • How do you most like to learn? Through your head, heart or by doing?
  • What are you most proud of achieving in your worklife?
  • What do you expect from me as a Mentee?
  • What sort of people most irritate you? What do they say and do?

Questions to agree learning outcomes

  • What skills, knowledge and/or attitudes do you think were most important getting you to where you are now?
  • What skills, knowledge and attitudes are required to perform X role or achieve Y result?
  • How do people usually know when they have mastered X skill, Y knowledge or Z attitude?
  • How many (X’s) are produced usually if I master this skill/knowledge/attitude?
  • How do people usually measure how well they have learnt this skill/knowledge/attitude?
  • How long do you think it will take me to learn the skill/knowledge/attitude?
  • What resources do you think I will need to master this skill/knowledge/attitude?

Questions to generate Discussion Topics

  • Do you see any themes running through the worklife incidents I have shared with you?
  • What sort of people do you see me mostly using this skill, knowledge or attitude with? Are there any issues concerning these people that we could discuss?
  • What skills, knowledge and/or attitudes do you think will be most important to me achieving my Learning Outcomes?
  • Are there any topics I overlooked that would be important to me achieving my Learning Outcomes?
  • Where do you see me using these skills, knowledge or attitudes the most? What aspects of these situations do you think are most valuable to discuss?
  • What information do you think I will need to put these skills, knowledge or attitude into practice? Perhaps we could discuss information XYZ as a topic?
  • What technology will I need to put these skills, knowledge or attitudes into practice? Are there any particular types of technology that we could discuss?
  • In your experience, what do you think are the key issues involved in this topic?
  • In your experience, what are the most common mistakes that people make when trying to do ABC?
  • What courses, books or articles do you know that are available on the topic?
  • Who could I ask about this topic to find out more?
  • Which skill, knowledge or attitude are you most interested in discussing?
  • What do other people think about this issue?

When to Analyse, Practice or Talk

Our habits and preferences make it easier for us to settle for using a limited range of approaches to learning. In contrast, our worklife situations keep changing. Other people have diverse habits and learning preferences that are different to our own. Inevitably the Mentee who has a limited repertoire will find that some of their roles and preferences are less ineffective in some situations and with some people.

For this reason we encourage Mentees to be flexible. Firstly, by recognizing their Mentor’s roles and Mentoring preferences. Secondly, by adopting roles and learning preferences that complement their Mentor’s roles and Mentoring preferences. The diagram below shows which Mentee roles and learning preferences tend to complement the different roles and Mentoring preferences of Mentors. (see Roles of the Effective Mentee and What is your Learning Preference?)

Complementary Roles and Preferences of Mentors and Mentees

Mentor’s Role


Mentoring Preference


Learning Preference


Mentee’s Role

Sounding Board












The above diagram suggests that taking up the role of "Inquirer" and learning mainly by "Analysing", will tend to be more effective with a Mentor who enjoys the role of "Sounding Board", and who prefers to Mentor by "Explaining".

Similarly, when communicating with a Mentor whose primary role is that of "Leader", the Mentee will probably learn more if they enact the complementary role of "Player", and actively "Practice" the skills, knowledge or attitudes they desire.

Likewise, Mentors who are "Supporters", who Mentor mostly by "Encouraging", are complemented by Mentees who adopt the role of "Networker". They share their learning experiences with their Mentor and gain "Support" to learn from others by expanding their network.

How to provide feedback to your Mentor

The key to giving feedback to your Mentor is being clear about your purpose. If it is to assist the Mentor and your yourself to build the relationship, then your words will be less likely to generate a defensive response.

If, however, you feel upset with your Mentor and wish to inflict some pain in return, then your feedback will most probably create more of the same upsetting behaviour. In such cases, it is usually better to postpone giving your feedback until you can choose to give your feedback with a more constructive purpose in mind.

Not warning your Mentor that you intend to give feedback is another common mistake that makes it less likely that the Mentor will respond positively. Accordingly, make it a habit of concluding each topic discussion by agreeing what will be discussed in the next Mentoring session. That way you can ask to put giving feedback to your Mentor on the agenda of the next meeting. This allows your Mentor to start thinking about what has gone well and what could have been improved. As a consequence, the Mentor will be more ready to discuss any areas for improvement.

The actual delivery of feedback is usually best done by giving the Mentor specific examples of his/her behaviour. A useful way of describing such examples is to outline the Context in which the behaviour occurred, who was involved and when. Within this context, you can then describe the Actions the Mentor took and the Results achieved.

If you have any concerns about your Mentor’s response to feedback, please contact the Mentors Online Project Officer at APESMA at

How to respond to a Mentor that rejects your suggestions/feedback

People react to feedback in many different ways. Some people see it as an opportunity to learn and feel flattered when praised. Some may trivialise the feedback given, others may rationalise it as being due to external factors, whilst still others may feel insulted and vent their anger.

Mentors are no exception and some may choose to reject your feedback. Amidst their reaction to your feedback, remember to ask yourself: "Who owns the upset?" If the answer is, "The Mentor", you can probably see yourself as separate to the Mentor’s reaction, and not take their words personally.

To maintain your relationship with the Mentor, make sure you paraphrase what your Mentor has said and done. Ensure you use some of the Mentor’s key words to show you really understand their reaction to your feedback and ask if you have correctly understood the Mentor’s reaction. When Mentor confirm you have understood them correctly, then you can take the next step and ask the Mentor, "How do you think we could move forward from this?" The Mentor’s answer usually provides a platform upon which to re-build the Mentoring relationship.

If you have any concerns about your Mentor’s feedback, please contact the Mentors Online Project Officer at APESMA at

Common Pitfalls of Mentees

As a Mentee, you are expected to make some mistakes as you learn. Shown below are some of the less effective ways of learning as a Mentee. Knowing these in advance may minimise the mistakes Mentees make and enable them to recognise how they may be contributing to any problems in their Mentoring relationship.

  • Resisting agreeing measurable and observable Learning Outcomes at the beginning of the Mentoring relationship. This can lead to problems later when Mentee’s forget their purpose and hesitate at putting in the effort to master the skills, knowledge or attitudes that will assist them in their worklife.
  • Not requesting their Mentor agree a regular date, time and email address to conduct Mentoring discussions e.g. one hour every two weeks at 4.30pm on a Tuesday. In this way, other work commitments can be scheduled around the regular Mentoring discussions. A totally ad-hoc approach runs the risk of Mentoring discussions being repeatedly cancelled because of clashes with "more important" work commitments.
  • Not agreeing a procedure for postponing discussions. Not keeping to an agreed schedule of contact quickly undermines trust in any Mentoring relationship. It is important to agree how you will notify each other of unavoidable changes to plans and work commitments e.g. wherever possible, email at least one working day prior to postponing a scheduled Mentoring discussion, or phone if shorter notice is absolutely necessary.
  • Not agreeing a schedule of topics to be discussed with your Mentor. Having a topic schedule enables Mentoring partners to make conscious choices about postponing a topic if a more pressing worklife issue needs to be discussed immediately. Without a topic schedule, Mentees can find themselves digressing on to their favourite topics and arrive at a place where they are unsure about what to discuss next.
  • Mentees not volunteering at the end of each topic discussion to write a concise summary of what was learnt, actions agreed and the date, time and email address of the next Mentoring discussion.
  • Withholding complaints about your Mentor, especially airing complaints with people other than the Mentor. The latter is a breach of confidentiality. The remedy is for the Mentee to ask for what he/she wants from their Mentor as and when these needs arise – versus suppressing them and allowing them to build up and damage the Mentoring relationship.
  • Not requesting your Mentor to schedule a mid-way and end of Mentoring review of progress towards the Learning Outcomes. A mid and end of Mentoring reviews provide Mentees with the opportunity to discuss their Learning Outcomes and ensure they are still relevant to their prevailing worklife circumstances. They also provide a reliable forum when Mentees know they will have an opportunity to discuss their achievements, any set backs and their future.
  • Mentees not asserting their views because they are contrary to the views of their Mentor. Mentors never stop learning. The fresh views of Mentees often contribute to the Mentor’s own professional development.
  • Not creating a specific folder for your Mentor in a private directory. This saves time in retrieving information and maintains confidentiality.
  • Rushing to discuss topics and worklife issues without first sharing information about each other’s professional background and current worklife events. Without this information questions can be asked that are inappropriate to the Mentor’s circumstances, skills, knowledge and attitudes e.g. disclosing information about the business activities of a Mentor’s competitor.
  • Not acknowledging what the Mentor has said, before stating a differing point of view or changing the subject. When this occurs, Mentors often feel their explanation has been ignored.
  • Using language that could be interpreted as not respecting the Mentor’s skills, knowledge and attitudes. Critical statements such as, "I would have expected you to know XYZ …", lower the Mentor’s self esteem.
  • Using phrases that assume the Mentor already has a skill, knowledge or attitude can make it more difficult for a Mentor to admit not knowing e.g. "As you would be aware, …."
  • Cushioning feedback by being vague and obtuse because of a concern that you may hurt the Mentor’s feelings. Not being clear about your intentions when you give feedback to your Mentor. By directly stating the known facts, you can actually communicate that you respect the Mentor’s capability to handle the feedback.
  • Not reminding the Mentor at least two topic discussions prior to a Mentoring relationship coming to a close. Forewarning Mentors minimises the shock and loss that many Mentors experience when a Mentoring relationship ends. Losing a Mentee can be like losing a close personal friend.

Thankyou for completing the Mentees' module. You can now proceed to register as a Mentee with Mentors Online.