by Helen Moulsley

The first meeting

The first meeting serves four purposes.

1. To get to know each other better

This can start with some introductions, followed by a brief run through what the mentor and mentee have done in the past. This is important, not only as an ice breaker, but as a way for both parties to decide if they are happy to continue beyond the first meeting.

2. For expectations to be articulated and agreed

Understand what expectations are being brought to the table by both mentor and mentee. It is good to clarify these and have them stated upfront. Different or unrealistic expectations can be the cause of mentoring relationships not working. Here are some examples of instances where different expectations may bring this about:

  • Where the mentee expects the mentor to sort out their next job
  • The mentee anticipates that the mentor will make their own personal network of contacts available to them
  • The mentee expects the mentor to tell them what to do, or worse, to do it for them
  • Where the mentor expects the mentee to do exactly what they tell them
  • The mentor assumes that the mentee has the capabilities of someone more experienced, and forgets that the mentee may have many years less experience than the mentor.

3. For ground rules to be set and agreed

Ground rules are things such as

  • Frequency of meetings
  • Length of meetings
  • How meetings will take place (for example, face-to-face or by telephone)
  • Communication in between meetings (particularly important if the mentor has gatekeepers who may unintentionally block the mentee’s access)
  • How actions will be progressed and reviewed.

4. Objective setting

The mentee should come to the meeting with some draft objectives covering what outcomes they would like to achieve through the mentoring. These should be discussed and agreed with the mentor.