Effective (and Ineffective) Characteristics of Mentees

Written by
Laura Francis

Tips for Mentees

Effective and Ineffective Characteristics of MenteesWe’ve all been there—feeling stuck in a mentoring relationship that was not how we envisioned it would be. It’s the sad truth that not all mentoring relationships work out. Some fail due to lack of focus. Some fail due to the personalities of the people involved. Some fail simply because of shifting priorities. There are certainly relationships that we can happily say worked well for us and made us better people, but not every relationship will get a five-star rating.

So what can you do about this? And how can you work to minimize these situations?

It really all comes down to the people involved as the mentees and mentors. The ability to succeed depends upon several factors, such as the level of commitment you have toward the mentoring relationship and your willingness to work with your mentoring partner to achieve the goals you set or the development needs you identify.

This drive to succeed can be considered a personality trait, but it more accurately boils down to effective and ineffective characteristics of mentees and mentors. These characteristics can be learned (and therefore changed!) when it comes to negative traits. Conversely, the positive traits can be achieved by anyone willing to make the effort.

To help you move your mentoring relationship in a positive direction, here are five effective and ineffective characteristics of mentees. (We’ll blog about mentors next!) Do you display any of these traits in your relationships? Have you seen any of these traits in others?

Effective Characteristics of Mentees

  1. Goal-oriented: Effective mentees place a high value on setting and accomplishing goals.
  2. Seek Challenges: Effective mentees are not satisfied with the status quo and are vocal about wanting and accepting new challenges.
  3. Take Initiative: Effective mentees do not wait for others to notice them or their abilities; they are willing to initiate a positive learning activity.
  4. Show Eagerness to Learn: Effective mentees are curious about what they do not know and are able to ask for assistance or resources when faced with uncertain circumstances.
  5. Accept Personal Responsibility: Effective mentees do not shift blame, procrastinate or become easily distracted; they readily admit and own failures and shortcomings.

Ineffective Characteristics of Mentees

  1. Too Self-Promoting: Ineffective mentees constantly jockey for position and status, or engage in name-dropping, rather than focus on their personal and professional development.
  2. Too Busy: Ineffective mentees have too much activity going on in their lives and cannot give the mentoring relationship the proper time and attention required to be successful.
  3. Uninterested in Mentor’s Area of Expertise: Ineffective mentees do not show a personal drive to excel in the mentor’s area(s) of mastery, which can make for an ill-fitting relationship.
  4. Lack Focus: Ineffective mentees hop from one thing to the next without fully committing to anything.
  5. Overly Dependent: Ineffective mentees are overly needy for approval or require constant supervision, which is the job of the supervisor, not the mentor.

Now that you understand what traits bring out the best in mentees, you can begin to accentuate those positive traits in yourself and work to reduce any ineffective traits you may identify. It can be hard to do an honest assessment of yourself, so consider asking your mentor to help you with this evaluation. Your mentor will appreciate your commitment to trying to be the best mentee you can be, and will also be grateful that you are giving your relationship the serious consideration it deserves. And always keep in mind that these characteristics are learned, and can therefore be unlearned. Simply said, you can be an effective mentee.

If you are a mentor or program manager, encourage your mentees to conduct a self-assessment. Make it a part of your mentoring conversation and give support to the mentees as they move forward in their self-discovery.

Do you have more tips on how to be an effective mentee? Share them with us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook!


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