Mentoring: Build the Relationship


By Brenna Lofquist, Senior Marketing Consultant / Client Services Operations at Heinz Marketing

Mentoring is one of the best ways to develop skills and reach your goals. It consists of a mentoring relationship between you and someone who can support and encourage you. The mentor-mentee relationship can take several different forms such as peer mentorship, where colleagues guide one another, or reverse mentorship, when a more junior employee mentors leaders in order to provide a different perspective. No matter the form of mentorship, there’s a few things that will ensure success, the most important being the relationship itself.

The importance of mentoring relationships

The main benefit of mentoring, to put it simply, is advancing in your career. Mentoring relationships help you develop and learn new skills as well assist in working toward and reaching your goals, which can be directly tied to a promotion. Stats compiled from a couple resources highlight some of the benefits:

  • 97% of people with a workplace mentor say it’s valuable
  • 89% of those who have been mentored will also go on to mentor others
  • 25% of employees who enrolled in a mentoring program had a salary grade change, compared to only 5% of workers who did not participate
  • Mentees were 5 times more likely to be promoted
  • 67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring

These benefits and more are why over 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. Why not foster those in your organization instead of having to hire externally?

How to build a mentor relationship

As a mentor

Set expectations

  • Align on expectations from both parties in terms of what you want to get out of the mentoring relationship. In some cases, the mentee can be dealing with a certain issue and will want specific advice. On the other hand, they might want to learn from your experiences or knowledge. Either way, as a mentor you can craft your approach based on the agreed upon expectations.

Be committed

  • A mentorship is a two way street and it won’t work if only one party is dedicated. Mentoring takes time and energy from both sides so if you can’t commit, you might want to rethink your decision.

Provide honest feedback

  • Mentoring relationships rely heavily on honest feedback. It’s not always easy but it’s your role as a mentor to give honest, supportive, and positive feedback. It might be difficult for your mentee to receive this type of feedback but hopefully they can see it as a benefit. If you’re nervous about this, try having a conversation about it with your mentee and explain the benefits of taking feedback.

Build trust

  • Trust is another very important aspect of mentoring relationships. One could say mentoring was created because of two individuals who had a trusting relationship, who were committed to helping each other improve and learn new skills (or at least I think so). The first time I mentored a colleague at Heinz Marketing it came about pretty naturally because of the existing relationship we had built. There’s a few ways to build trust, one of which is to share your stories and struggles with your mentee. Being vulnerable with your mentee opens the door for them to be vulnerable with you, which can help build trust.


  • You aren’t a teacher or your mentee’s manager so telling them what to do won’t work. Instead ask them questions to guide them in making their own decision or drawing their own conclusion. Having an open line of communication with your mentee is important and a big part of the relationship. There might not always be something you can help with but having that open line of communication, allows the mentee to feel like they can reach out and know you’re there to support them. I would also recommend setting up a regular meeting cadence and figure out the best channel, it doesn’t always have to be a Zoom meeting, for example, and could be a quick Slack check in.

As a mentee

Set goals

  • Goals are important and they are going to drive your mentoring relationship. These goals should be what you want to accomplish in your career and/or new skills you want to develop. At the beginning of your mentoring relationship, discuss the goals with your mentor, that way they can help you make a plan on how to get there.

Demonstrate your interest

  • Be an active participant in the relationship. Your mentor is spending a great amount of time and energy, so you should too. Make sure you’re listening and asking thoughtful questions. There’s nothing worse than providing advice or feedback to someone and it goes no where.


  • Communication should be open and you can even discuss preferred channels and styles with your mentor. If something isn’t working in the relationship then bring it up to see if your mentor is willing to make a change so it works for both parties. You will get what you put into the relationship so make sure you’re communicating with your mentor often.

Ask for feedback

  • This is key for a mentee! You’ll grow by listening to the advice and guidance from your mentor. The more you ask for feedback, the more you can improve and the better you’ll be. Use your mentor as a resource and bounce ideas off them, or get their thoughts on a strategy you’re outlining. If your mentor doesn’t have visibility into your performance, you can always ask if they can get a report from your manager and incorporate that feedback into one of your sessions.

Come prepared

  • This ties into a few others areas but making sure you’re prepared will allow you to get the most out of your mentoring relationship. In addition, it can be frustrating for a mentor who dedicates time to help you grow, only to have you show up to a meeting unprepared. They are there to help you but you need to direct the conversation and tell them what you need. To be prepared, make sure you’re coming to meetings with questions or problems you need help with. You can even create a standing agenda but make sure you’re still preparing for each talking point.

To sum it up

Creating a strong mentoring relationship takes time and commitment from both the mentor and mentee, I think that’s clear. There’s a few ways your organization can help cultivate a strong mentor-mentee relationship, however it’s mostly up to the participants. Keeping these tips in mind will help you as you build that relationship or even if you’re working to develop a mentor program for your organization.