How To Be A Good Mentee: Everything You Need To Know

UPDATED: April 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: April 23, 2024
Confident mature business women mentoring younger women showing how to be a good mentee

Having someone spend the time to be your mentor is a privilege, so it’s normal to wonder how to be a good mentee. A great mentor will be someone you can confide in and learn from, to help guide you in your life, your career and everything that falls in between. Even though that relationship can be critical to your growth and success, you also have to respect its boundaries to make it work.

Therefore, there are certain things you can do, as a mentee, to make sure your relationship with your mentor stays strong and beneficial, even during the busiest quarters.

So whether you’re looking for a mentor or already have one, here are a few things to remember to be a good mentee.

1. Clearly communicate that you’re looking for a mentor

Sometimes people consider asking to get coffee or for 15 minutes of time as the start of a mentorship, but it helps if you’re transparent and they know that you’re actually asking for a mentor. (You might be surprised—they might invest more in the conversation.)

So reach out with an explicit purpose. If an email only mentions grabbing coffee, it may seem less pressing. And if you do get on their calendar, don’t expect them to commit to future meetings where you’re looking to “pick their brain.” Present expectations as to what you are looking for. Maybe it’s a monthly meeting over coffee or 20-minute phone calls every other week. This will allow them to either commit or decline your offer and even open the conversation up to a third response—they may be inclined to introduce you to someone on their team or in their network who they feel is a better fit.

2. Know what you want

Before you approach a potential mentor, ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to learn? What are my short- and long-term goals?
  • Why am I courting this particular leader? (Note: Because he or she is rich and/or famous is not a valid reason.) How can he or she help me achieve those goals?
  • At the end of the year, what will I consider a win or a gain from this relationship?
SUCCESS Newsletter offer

3. Understand the mentor-mentee relationship

Mentoring should be friendly, but it’s not a friendship. The time is used intentionally, with well-defined objectives for each session that support a long-term, overarching goal.

Yet, you should also treat a mentorship like any other relationship in your life. It’s important to acknowledge when specific advice or feedback is particularly helpful. Share your success stories from the feedback they gave you. Chances are, your mentor will really appreciate it and may go on to share that same advice with others.

Think of it like working with a personal trainer: If a certain workout is making an impact, telling your trainer will only benefit you both. Don’t be too shy to brag a little! After all, you couldn’t have done it without their help.

4. Respect your mentor’s time

When one of my heroes, the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, agreed to meet with me, I treated the opportunity as a one-shot deal. I arrived at his Los Angeles apartment armed with five pages of questions, single-spaced, on a legal pad. He looked at me a little stunned, but then granted me hours of his time. At the end of our meeting, he looked at me and said, “John, I enjoyed this. When you think of more questions, you can come back and see me again.” Score!

One of my former mentees is Courtney McBath, a remarkably talented young man who established Calvary Revival Church in Virginia, now one of the nation’s biggest congregations. McBath would start each of our sessions like this:

  • This is what you said…
  • This is what I learned…
  • This is what I did…
  • Did I do it right?
  • Can I ask another question?
  • My answer was always: “Ask away.”

Also remember, face-to-face meetings are great; however, we’re all busy and you don’t want to lose steam waiting to find a slot on someone’s calendar. A mentor is there to give advice when you need it most, and sometimes that advice can be shared on a quick call or a single question email.

5. Know when you’re ready

My first mentors—after my dad—were books and audiotapes. I was just starting out. I wasn’t qualified to be tutored by anyone yet. What did I know?

Start with independent study. Keep notes. Write down your questions. The best of those inquiries might become your version of the “John Wooden list.”

6. Show your growth as a mentee

Once you do land a mentor, share your successes, large and small. Mentors don’t ask to be paid. Their reward is your success.

7. How to be a great mentee: Spread the love

Nothing makes a mentor happier than to hear that you’ve adopted a mentee, that you’re sharing what you learned through your mentorship experience with others in your networks and circles.

Your mentor initially agreed to this relationship as an act of paying it forward. Someone along the way helped them, and now it’s their turn to help you. By sharing their time and looking for ways to help you succeed, an unspoken piece of advice from them to you is to do this for others.

Part of this article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine and was updated in April 2024. Mona Patel contributed to this article. Photo By fizkes/

John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.