By Marshall Brown, Certified Career and Executive Coach

For many individuals, regardless of whether they are senior or junior level in their career, having a mentor can be a valuable tool for their professional (and personal) development. A mentoring relationship can be rewarding and provide a lot of benefits to the mentee (and the mentor for that matter). It can also be a lot of hard work.

To ensure that you get out of the mentoring relationship what you want, I suggest that you first determine what you want out of the relationship and set specific goals and expectations. Make sure you discuss your expectations with your potential mentor(s) to see if it is a good fit or not. Talk with several individuals before making a decision. Yes, it is OK to “shop around” and interview folks. This is about you: You want to be sure you are working with someone that you can trust and be comfortable with talking to. And your mentor does not need to necessarily be someone “older and wiser”; a mentor can also be someone who is your peer or a few steps ahead of you in your career.

Another suggestion for developing a successful mentoring relationship is to be sure the mentor also tells you about his or her expectations. You want to be sure your mentor is clear about what he or she can offer you, in addition to establishing time and other parameters.

Trust and respect for each other, like in many relationships, are critical elements in establishing a successful mentoring relationship. Therefore, it is important for you and your mentor to share your values and beliefs early on. It is important for both of you to reveal just enough about yourselves to increase intimacy, without being too forward. Discuss this with your mentor and be sure that you are both in alignment.

Be sure you also discuss each other’s communication styles. Let your mentor know how you would like to be communicated to and how you like to receive information. Find out how your mentor likes to give information and feedback. And then determine if that is the best way for you. Also determine the frequency of your conversations. In the hectic world that we live in today, finding time for this type of relationship can be difficult. Be sure that both of you are willing to make the time commitment on a regular basis. Do not make your meetings sporadic and “whenever available.” Make the time and stick too it. I personally think the more frequent you can meet, especially early on, the better and stronger your relationship will become.

And finally, commit to each other that you will discuss the relationship periodically. Revisit it on a regular basis to be sure that both of your needs are still being met. If they are, then continue to move ahead. But if not, discuss other options and perhaps other mentors that your mentor may suggest. Guaranteed, a mentor does not want to work with a mentee if the mentee doesn’t want to work with him or her.

Marshall Brown Bio PhotoAbout the Author
Marshall Brown, a certified career and executive coach, has always had a passion for helping people find ways to live more fulfilling lives. As a coach, Marshall helps individuals to find their passions and encourages them to move ahead in reaching their goals. He can be reached at or by visiting