Mentorship is a meaningful, useful relationship that can have an impact on someone’s intelligence and skills as well as their life as a whole. Often, more so than a typical teacher, a mentor plays the role of a supporter and friend more than just a guide, and this is usually reflected in mentoring goals. In this article, we’ll examine mentoring goals in more detail, specifically what makes them important and why you should set them.
What Are Mentoring Goals?
Mentoring goals are the goals that the mentor and the mentee in a pair relationship set between themselves. There are many types of mentoring goals, and some rest with the mentor, some with the mentee, and some are shared between the two.
Mentoring goals work similarly to any other goal; they often follow a “road map” sort of model, with several larger goals interspersed with smaller goals along the way, sometimes culminating in a fundamental final goal. This ultimate goal tends to be what the mentor was hired for in the first place.
There are a lot of questions about mentoring goals that you might have in mind. In this article, we’ll answer several of them, such as:
- How many goals should the mentee have at a time?
- What’s better: small goals or large goals?
- When should I revise my goals?
- What are some good examples of mentoring goals?
Number of Goals
Every pair (pair refers to the mentor and mentee together) needs to work together closely to set the correct scope and number of goals for the mentee to work on. Since every person will have a different amount of work that they excel the most with, it’s paramount that the pair work together to find this happy medium and stay there as best they can.
That being said, it will almost always require some trial and error before a mentor and mentee get things completely right. It will become clear when there are too many goals on the mentee’s plate, but it might be less so when there are too few, depending on the work ethic of the mentee.
It’s the job of the mentor to watch the mentee and stay vigilant for either of the above situations, and it will be their job to assist the mentee in reorganizing their goals when they encounter too many or too few. It may be enough for the pair that progress is being made, or one or both members might feel unsatisfied if not enough is happening.
When it happens that the mentee has too many goals on their plate for some reason, the pair will likely want to try rearranging some of these goals to return to a more comfortable pace. Obviously, taking things on and off the list is one way to handle this, but there are other options, too.
Consider breaking down some of the broad, overwhelming goals of the mentee into smaller, more manageable ones instead of taking things off the list altogether. With this strategy, the mentee doesn’t forget about the goal, and it stays an important priority, but it can be tackled in smaller steps.
The only problem with this approach is that it doesn’t work well if the mentee already has a lot of small goals on their plate. While it’s easier to handle many small goals instead of many large goals, you may need to remove some other small goals to make room for the new ones. In this way, this strategy doesn’t really solve the problem, so to speak; it ends up being a shift in priorities, which is okay too.
Types of Mentoring Goals
Like we touched on before, mentoring goals come in two main types: those of the mentor and those of the mentee. Often, these two will intertwine or be the same in many areas, but the mentor and mentee can still hold several goals that are separate from each other, too.
The goals of the mentor include the goals of the mentee, of course, but sometimes a mentor can add their own goals onto the list, as well. Mentor’s goals should fall into one of two categories: those shared with the mentee, or those held private.
A mentor who is close to their mentee might hold private hopes and goals for the mentee, as well as goals for themselves that have to do with their teaching. Consider a mentor who is helping their mentee develop public speaking skills. Secretly, that mentor might wish that their mentee might gain some confidence from learning public speaking, as well, but they might not share that with the mentee.
Whether this goal is shared with the mentee or not, sometimes it can be achieved anyway if it’s close enough to what the mentee desires already. For example, developing public speaking skills has been shown to boost confidence in people, so the desires of the mentor, in this case, are achievable and valid.
Additionally, mentors might hold other secret goals that have to do with their teaching style. They might have concerns about how effective they’ll be as a mentor, or they might be afraid that they can’t teach their mentee well.
In this case, setting a goal to improve or track a mentor’s efficacy might be a good idea. A mentor might, alternatively, want to set goals to learn some new teaching styles or strategies for use with the mentee.
Other than the above, though, most of a mentor’s goals will be developed side-by-side with the mentee and will involve meeting the mentee’s goals. After all, if the mentee reaches the goals they’ve set, it usually means the mentor has done well, too.
Mentee goals are usually the reason that mentorship is formed in the first place. Typically, a person will find that they lack a skill that they want either for long-term personal development or short-term use, and the skill itself will be suited to mentorship. Not all skills can be taught by a mentor, after all, but when they can, mentorship tends to be a very effective option.
Common mentee goals tend to be things like:
- Improving public speaking
- Improving confidence
- Building leadership skills
- Working on work-life balance
- Forming 5-year plans
However, mentee goals don’t have to align with the items above. For example, trade mentorship, while not as common as it used to be, is still a viable way to learn a trade skill and build proficiency for a future career in that skill.
It’s ultimately important that the goal in question be something defined by the mentee, though, not the mentor. In a mentor-mentee situation, the skills that the mentee wants to learn are entirely up to the mentee. Unless they are specifically seeking the mentor’s advice on forming their mentoring goals, the mentee has the final say for anything proposed by either party.
Each member of the mentor-mentee relationship has a different role to fill to maximize the potential benefits of the relationship. The role of the mentor is clear; their purpose is to guide the mentee in learning a skill, and to a lesser extent, to act as support for the mentee.
A pair relationship isn’t just one-sided, though, even though the role of the mentee is less clear. For all intents and purposes, the role of the mentee is to do research, work towards their goal, and overcome adversity so that they can reach success.
Even though both parties play an essential role in a mentorship, the role of the mentor is undoubtedly the bigger one, if not the better-recognized one. When your mentee speaks to you about their goals, it’s your job to help determine how best to go about achieving those goals with their own specific needs in mind.
First, the mentor should help the mentee clarify and pare down what they have in mind for their long-term mentorship goals. The mentee might have a vague idea of what needs doing and what they could benefit from, but it’s the job of the mentor to find the root of the mentee’s issues so that the team can start tackling them together.
Consider the middle-aged woman from earlier. The problem she presents to her life coach is that she shops too much. It’s the job of the life coach to help the woman figure out why she shops so much, what she can do to stop or remedy it, and what the habit itself might have originated from.
If she began shopping so much because her home life was unpleasant for many years, for example, a mentor needs to help isolate that reason so that the pair can use it to help find a solution.
The mentor is also responsible for more goals like the following:
- Determining how achievable the mentee’s goals are
- Setting up benchmarks to show the mentee’s improvement
- Setting a realistic timeline to achieve the goals in
- Encouraging good habits in their mentee
As with any partnership, whether these strategies work or not is mostly dependent on the mentee following through, but the mentor should always do their utmost to set the mentee up for success regardless of how hopeless the outcome might look.
The role of the mentee in a pair relationship boils down to following through with what the mentor suggests. To foster the best possible mentor-mentee relationship, the mentees should always be concerned with making the mentor’s job as easy as possible. This means doing their own research, showing up informed to meetings, and always working to make progress on set goals rather than putting them off.
The mentee and mentor should work together to maintain transparency between the two of them by setting strong, clear ground rules and expectations right away. The mentee should also be very clear in the goals they want to achieve with the mentor’s help, and they should never leave all the research to be done by the mentor.
There are types of mentorships out there that you might not at first recognize as “mentorships” in and of themselves. Imagine a football coach, for example. While most football coaches will mentor a full team of mentees at one time, it’s the start of what’s essentially a mentor-mentee relationship, just on a different scale.
Other less apparent mentorships might be things like:
- A therapist and a patient
- A life coach and a client
- Trainers of any type
- Teachers (or tutors) and students
- An advisor and the advisee
While the mentorships above tend to be fundamentally different because they involve varying amounts of focus on one mentee, in addition to the fact that some are paid services and some aren’t, they are still, in essence, mentorships. This is because the mentor is helping to direct the mentee through the acquisition of skill, knowledge, or other things.
One special type of mentoring that’s utilized in different environments than traditional mentoring is called peer mentoring. With peer mentoring, there’s no significant age or experience difference between the mentor and the mentee, but both of them have skills or experience in an area that the other does not. In this way, both parties are both a mentor and a mentee in the relationship.
Peer mentoring is an excellent way to foster the growth of skills and understanding between people of the same age or knowledge level. This works very well in businesses with many hirees of the same or similar age groups, and this approach is particularly useful on school campuses.
Though the efforts of students can lead to differing results when left to their own devices, all of the students benefit when they’re able to mentor each other in difficult concepts.
Setting Mentoring Goals
Setting mentoring goals is a delicate process that requires the input and negotiation of both the mentor and the mentee. If a mentee doesn’t agree that something the mentor suggests is an important goal to them, for example, then the mentee has the final say in the matter.
Unless the mentorship is being sponsored by a third party, in which case they may have a say, the most critical aspects of the mentorship should be negotiated between the mentor and the mentee. To illustrate this example, consider two mentorships that are about to take place. One is a middle-aged woman looking for a life coach, and one is a new hiree looking to gain experience in business.
The middle-aged woman looking for a life coach is able to set her own goals for the mentorship arbitrarily; since it was her idea in the first place, what she wants to get out of it is entirely up to her. She might be interested in a life coach who can help her break a shopping habit, or perhaps she wants some advice from a therapist to help make her home life a bit more peaceful.
However, a new hire looking to get the most out of his new job would be bound by more than the woman above. For instance, it would be necessary for the hiree to learn about the practices of the business where they’re working in addition to standard business procedures. They wouldn’t be able to set all their own goals; while they could tackle them at their own pace, many of their goals would undoubtedly be influenced by the business itself.
Mentors and mentees alike should keep the above in mind when setting their own mentorship goals. However, the way that each party goes about setting mentorship goals is very different. While the mentee is the source of the what for the mentorship goals, the mentor is the source of the how. Both parties can work together to determine the when.
Let’ return to our scenario with the middle-aged woman above. She brings the what – the reason that she’s looking for a life coach or therapeutic advice. However, the mentor that she chooses will supply the how; how she should begin addressing and solving these issues in her life. The two of them will help work out a good timeline for her to work with, providing the when.
A similar scenario applies to the hiree as well. The main difference is that the company the hiree is working for will provide most of the what – in this case, what the hiree needs to know or do to excel at their job. The mentor that’s training the new hire will help supply the how, and the two of them will work out the when together, although this also might be influenced by the third party.
When a mentor and a mentee work together, benefits are conferred to both sides. That’s what a partnership is all about, after all. At first glance, it might seem like the mentee is getting all the benefit and the mentor isn’t at all. We can’t deny that some mentorships end up this way if they’re not addressed or cared for properly, but a respectful, mutually-beneficial mentorship should benefit both parties in different ways.
The benefits of mentorship to the mentor might not be as readily apparent as the clear benefits to the mentee, but rest assured that they’re there, and in abundance. Besides developing a promising relationship with their mentee, mentors should expect to see the following benefits:
- Better leadership skills gained by leading your mentee
- Expanded communication skills as you learn to communicate with mentees from different walks of life
- New perspectives gained from working with mentees of varying experience levels
- Career skills gained through teaching your mentee, in addition to direct career advancement from signing up for a mentorship program
- Personal satisfaction from helping someone else grow and develop
It’s hard to deny that the mentor receives fewer benefits than the mentee does, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there or not important. They also tend to be more straightforward than those gained by the mentee, but they’re no less valid.
The mentee is traditionally thought of as the one gaining the most benefit from the mentorship, and this is true to an extent. The purpose of a mentorship is to help the mentee grow and develop as a person or worker, after all. The mentee in a mentorship should expect to see benefits like:
- Gaining useful insight or advice from more experienced workers and adults that can help you advance your career or purpose
- Developing skills and knowledge with the help of a vigilant instructor
- Hearing outsider knowledge or opinions on what you need most to succeed, or where your skills are lacking the most
- Improving communication skills, just like your mentor
- Learning new perspectives, also just like your mentor
- Building the start of a career network to help you succeed or branch out
Some of the benefits, as we’ve listed, are shared between the mentor and the mentee. While these benefits have more to do with interpersonal connection and relationship-building than career-building, they’re still just as useful and valid for the mentor and mentee.
Isolating Mentorship Goals
Even with the help of a mentor, it can sometimes be challenging to properly isolate and evaluate what’s most important to you, especially if your mentor doesn’t have much mentoring experience. However, there are several tips you can follow to help foster understanding and success when forming your mentorship goals. It’s a good idea to start with some of the following:
- Always define your goals as precisely as possible
- Make sure all of your goals are meaningful and important to you; don’t waste time on meaningless or less-important goals
- Break large goals into smaller, more achievable sub-goals
- Make your goals SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based)
- Always reward yourself (and your mentor) for a job well done
- Organize your goals into categories
- Write down your goals
- Review your goals every day
- Get family and friends involved to hold yourself accountable
Sometimes, your own success is entirely independent of how much work you put into forming and fool-proofing your plans. However, in most cases, the more time and effort you put in before executing your plans, the more successful they will be. This is why time spent with your mentor to devise the most effective approach to your goals is so vitally important.
Predictably, your success hinges on the partnership itself, too. If you don’t have a mentor who will devote sufficient time and effort to helping you achieve your goals, or if your mentee is unwilling to put in the work necessary to do the same, there’s not much you can do to make things work out.
In situations like this, the only real thing to be done is to find a new mentor or mentee. Sometimes, a wake-up call in the form of the third party or another important person can serve the same purpose, but not always for long. The success of the mentorship goals depends wholly on the efforts of the mentor and the mentee.
As such, there are certain basic understandings that you’ll need to keep in mind with mentorship. For example:
- You get out what you put in.
The above phrase essentially means that the more work you invest in your mentorship goals, the more likely you are to achieve success. While you may be able to achieve success with little effort for some goals, would you also get the same benefit out of the ordeal if you didn’t work for it?
- Experience begets success.
Experience in any career is invaluable for a young hire entering a new field. Some things are learned only through experience, and if you have an experienced mentor introducing you to these things before or as they happen, you already have a leg up on the competition.
- Patch your weaknesses, not your strengths.
Don’t look for a mentor who is proficient in exactly what you’re already good at. While this might improve your own skills a little, you won’t gain as much valuable experience this way. Rather than polishing an already impressive skill, try shoring up your weaknesses with the help of a good mentor instead. With any luck, you can turn these weaknesses into strengths and make yourself more competitive in the end.
- Take advice seriously, but with a grain of salt.
A mentor is there to give you guidance on what they believe you should do next, but no one, even an experienced mentor, is infallible. If your instincts are telling you to do something different than your mentor says, give some thought to them, too. You’re never required to do everything your mentor says, and sometimes making your own mistakes is a valuable part of the experience, too.
At its core, mentorship is an association of convenience that benefits both parties. As long as you know this as well as how to get the most out of it, you’ll find that your mentorship, coupled with good mentorship goals, provides more benefits to you than you might have realized.