Mentoring is a relationship between a student (‘mentee’) and a more experienced person (‘mentor’), who is there to support you with developing your career. The purpose of the relationship is the passing on of knowledge, experience and offering advice.
Mentors can help with preparing for the world of work, discuss career options and offer practical assistance with getting jobs and a place on a postgraduate course.
As a student at Trinity, you can connect with a Trinity graduate online or in person and ask them to mentor you.
What form that support takes depends on what your specific needs are and what the mentor has the time and ability to offer. Mentoring can be anything from a few brief email contacts to a longer-term relationship, as a guideline aim for three meetings of an hour’s duration.
Mentoring to be successful is typically
Part of what makes mentoring valuable is that you keep the same mentor for a period of time – weeks or months or sometimes longer. Your mentor can get to know you, your strengths and aspirations. You benefit from better support because they know you, and they get the satisfaction of seeing you progress towards reaching your goals.
Types of mentoring activity
The core of a mentoring relationship is conversation, whether by email, phone, Skype or face-to-face. Many mentors are willing to provide practical help such as reviewing your CV/ LinkedIn profile/ application or interview practice.
Do not assume that all mentors can offer the same types of support. Some mentoring relationships are carried out entirely by email. Also, mentors are busy people; they may not have large amounts of time to spend with you.
Be realistic in your expectations of your mentor and be reasonable about how much time you want from them.
As a student at Trinity, you can connect with a Trinity graduate at a mentoring event or via the new online platform (coming soon).
Currently the College offers two mentoring options. Your school decides which option is open to you.
Attend Alumni to Student Mentoring (or GradLink where applicable) events to meet graduates who are happy to mentor Trinity students. Through meeting graduates and reading their online profiles (online mentoring platform coming soon) you can find a mentor who is a good match for your interests and what you want.
The online mentoring platform includes profiles of graduates who are willing to be mentors. Once you have found a potential mentor, either in person or online, you can contact them by email, phone or via the online platform to send a mentoring request.
Once you have found a potential mentor, you need to contact them by email, phone (if they have shared their details) or via the online mentoring platform (coming soon) to send them a mentoring request – a message asking them to be your mentor.
How to structure a mentoring request
What happens next?
What do you want from mentoring?
People sign up for mentoring for many different reasons. For example:
Don’t ask for a job as they will probably say no:
Most people aren’t in a position to offer a job or internship in their organisation. Mentoring is about gaining insight into a career area, not about trying to secure employment in your mentor’s company.
Has a Trinity graduate agreed to mentor you? Congratulations! It is now time to start building a relationship with your mentor.
Getting started – checklist
Discuss how and when you will contact each other
Give your mentor your contact details and ask them how they would prefer to talk to you – this could be by email, phone, Skype or face-to-face. If they prefer phone or Skype, make an appointment for your first conversation.
Some mentors prefer to stick to email or online messaging, they will speak to you by phone or in person once they have gotten to know you.
Do ask how often they can be contacted. Be realistic in your expectations. Your mentor is a volunteer, so do not expect too much and show that you are grateful for their time.
You can take the lead in this by telling them more about yourself, and asking your mentor questions. Typical areas to cover would be where are you from, your interests, reasons why you choose Trinity/ a particular area, work experience, volunteering and student activities carried out, or future plans.
Work together to set some objectives
Mentoring is usually more effective when you start with a clear set of goals. So as a first step, choose a few SMART objectives with your mentor for what your relationship will achieve. Your mentor and you should work together to write the objectives and make sure that they are SMART.
You should keep a record of your objectives so you can review them later. Write them down and share them with your mentor. Try to make a simple plan of what you need to do to reach the objectives, and add what you have planned to your calendar or to-do list.
Take the lead
As a mentee, you are expected to lead the mentoring relationship and make sure it keeps progressing. Your mentor is your guide and helper, not your manager. You need to be proactive – request their help when you want it and keep them up to date with your progress.
Your mentor is busy and does not get paid for their time. They should not have to chase you, nor put in more effort than you.
Review your progress
To get the most out of mentoring, you need to look back as well as forward. For a more in-depth mentoring relationship set aside time with your mentor each time you meet to review your progress.
The focus of your review should be the SMART objectives you set at the start. Have you met those objectives, or are you on course to meet them soon? What should your objectives be for the next 1–6 months?
Also reflect on yourself and your career plans more generally. How have you developed, and how have your ideas changed? What do you need to do next?
A discussion of these topics with your mentor will be hugely valuable to you. It will also prepare you both for continued progress in your mentoring relationship.
There is no cut-off date for a mentoring relationship. It can be as short or as long as your mentor and you wish. We find that most useful mentoring relationships last at least 10 weeks, but some are shorter than that, and many last longer.
Either your mentor or you can decide to end the mentoring relationship. Please do talk to your mentor before ending the relationship if possible. You may also benefit from reviewing your progress with them in your final mentoring conversation.
If the relationship does not work
You may need to end the mentoring relationship before you have met your objectives, if you do not get along with your mentor or you do not feel you are benefiting from them.
If this happens, do not be put off by one bad mentoring experience. Try again with another mentor.
Don’t expect too much
Be realistic in your expectations of how much time and support your mentor will give you. Our mentors are volunteers with busy lives – many have demanding jobs, families and other commitments.
Your mentor’s time is valuable, so show them that you value it. You do this by not missing appointments with them; sending them too many requests in a short space of time; and by trying to make progress independently in the times between your conversations.
Above all, remember to thank your mentor regularly and to tell them about your successes as well as your problems. Your gratitude and evidence of your progress will encourage your mentor to feel satisfied that the precious time they give to you is well spent.
Let them know when you will be away
If you know you will not be in contact with your mentor for a while, make sure you tell them first. Otherwise, they may feel you have lost interest in mentoring and might even choose to end the relationship.
It may be many years since your mentor studied at Trinity, so do not assume that they know when your term dates and assessment deadlines are likely to be.
Use other sources of help and advice
Your mentor cannot give good advice or support on every subject. In addition to your mentor, you should make the most of the College support that you have access to as a student – Trinity Support Services.
What if my mentor can’t meet my objectives?
It is not a failure on their part, or yours, if what your mentor is able to offer does not fit with your hopes or needs. In that case, you should honestly discuss this with your mentor and either work together to set different objectives or agree to end the mentoring relationship.
If the relationship ends, please try approaching a different mentor. Do not give up just because one mentoring relationship did not work. Take the learning from your first mentoring relationship to help you define what you hope to achieve in your next mentoring relationship.
What if my mentor can’t help me with a specific issue?
Mentors are not trained consultants or coaches; they are not expected to know everything nor are they able to deal with any issue.
Trinity students have a comprehensive professional support network for everything from careers guidance and academic skills to physical and mental health support. Please access Trinity Support Services for any issues your mentor cannot assist with.
What if I want a second opinion?
You do not have to agree with everything your mentor says, and you do not have to take their advice. If you want more guidance, need to check something or have an issue that you would prefer not to raise with your mentor, why not book an appointment with your Careers Consultant through MyCareer?
What if I don’t get along with my mentor?
Mentoring is like any other kind of interpersonal relationship – sometimes it simply does not work. In that case, it is in the best interests of both you and your mentor for you to end the relationship. Make sure you do this tactfully and thank them for the time they have already given you.
Once the relationship has ended, you are free to contact a different mentor. Please do not give up just because one mentoring relationship did not work.
How can the College support me?
For any further advice, book an appointment with your Careers Consultant through MyCareer.
Adapted from original source: Mentoring Guides, Careers & Placements, University of York