How To Create And Maintain A Healthy Mentorship Relationship In College

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Relationships come and go and some can end fairly sour. Creating healthy and happy relationships with others can bring you a lot more serenity in your life. Whether it is with friends, family, a classmate, a professor, or even a mentor.

Mentors are great to have especially during your college career for further support and guidance. Mentors can offer advice from when they were in your position previously and give you helpful tips that will allow you to reach your goals. If you want to learn ways to find a mentor, check out our blog post ​​4 Easy Steps to Find a Mentor While in College.

Mentor and mentee relationships can start off great, but can go off the rails if you’re not proactive in maintaining them. In this blog post, we will talk about how to start and sustain a healthy relationship with a mentor from start to end.

1. Getting off on the right foot

When you first meet someone, you can usually get a good tell on if your personalities are going to match just by having a conversation. Be sure to ask questions to find out whether your and the mentor's personalities align if they can give constructive feedback, and if they are able to push you.

Ask questions like these to ensure you are building a healthy foundation for the relationship:

  • “What is a goal you are working on achieving right now in your career?”
  • “What is a project you accomplished that you’re proud of?”
  • “What is something that you struggled with in your early career”
  • “How do you approach giving feedback and constructive criticism to people you work with?”
  • “Why do you want to mentor someone? Would you enjoy it?”
  • “What attributes are you looking for in a mentee?”

Asking these questions will help you get off on the right foot with your mentor and how they answer these questions will help you see if they are the right person to mentor you.

2. Set healthy goals 

It is important to set goals with your mentor so they can assist you in your weaker areas. The right mentor will encourage you and push you in healthy ways, so be sure to know exactly what you want to get out of the meeting with your mentor.

You can make a list of goals that will help you and your mentor take steps toward your career journey. Whatever it may be, make sure it is all in pursuit of accomplishing your main goal. 

Here are a few examples of goals you may have that you ask for assistance or recommendations from your mentor:

  • Get an internship this spring
  • Rewrite your resume
  • Work on a portfolio-building assignment
  • Read through books that will help your future career
  • Guidance during a class that they recommend to you
  • Practicing your interview skills

Utilizing goal setting will help maintain a healthy relationship between yourself and the mentor because it will keep you both organized and focused on how you are going to achieve different goals.

3. Set expectations with your mentor and boundaries for yourself

Setting expectations with your mentor and boundaries for yourself is essential to keeping a healthy relationship. Having healthy expectations in mind will help keep you and your mentor both on the same page.

A few example expectations you can set, though they may vary depending on your schedules and how they align:

  • Meet for 30-90 minutes at a time; ideally in-person
  • Meeting once a week is ideal, with twice a month as a second choice
  • Meeting or having a call before an interview to help prep
  • Mutually creating a “to-do” list before the meeting so you don’t waste time

Keep in mind, you should be cognizant of the boundaries that YOU can control, rather than another person (ie. your mentor's behavior).

Here are some examples of ways you can approach setting healthy boundaries for your mentorship:

  • “I will not respond to emails after 7 pm”
  • “I will not check Slack after 5 pm”
  • “I have to go now, can we schedule another time to speak about this on _ around _” 
  • “I have a heavy workload this week can we change our weekly meeting to _”
  • “I do not feel comfortable with doing _”
  • “It makes me feel uncomfortable when _”
  • “No, I will not do [insert task] for you”

Re-evaluate how you feel when you meet with them internally, it is okay if that specific mentorship does not work out. Trust your gut, it is always right. 

Setting an expectation with your mentor is a good way to communicate your needs and boundaries within yourself are a great way to create and maintain a healthy relationship with your mentor.

4. Cultivate the relationship

Like a good relationship that takes steps and grows together, so does the mentorship relationship. When you continue to take steps and hit different goals and milestones you will be able to set new goals, new expectations, and new milestones for yourself, which will continue the growth of the mentorship.

Your first goal may be to get an internship this spring, once you get the internship you may decide you then want to pursue attaining a full-time job at that company. Your mentor can help you set goals and create new expectations for meeting times, and check-ins, to help you attain your goal. You may decide once you get the full-time job you now only have time to meet once a month, and that is ok. Mentorships are meant to grow, change, and evolve, just as our everyday lives do.

Your mentor can work with you for a short period of time or a long period of time, just continue to re-evaluate your goals and expectations with one another, and personal boundaries with yourself when you hit milestones.

Here are a few examples of other tips you can utilize to cultivate the relationship:

  • Ask questions if you do not understand 
  • Keep the conversation confidential 
  • Listen before responding, not reacting
  • Take notes during each meeting so you do not forget what you spoke about
  • Be transparent about what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do (whether it is a task or a time you can or cannot commit to)

When you cultivate the relationship you will get more out of the mentorship, as will the mentor. The mentorship is supposed to be a mutually enjoyed experience between two parties so make sure you continue to cultivate the relationship.

As a college student, it is important to find a mentor as well as gain experience in the job field before graduating. Sign up for PathMatch where we can help set you up with an internship and gain different skill sets for free!

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