Answers to a Few Touchy Mentoring Questions

mentoring_touchy_questions Photos by Kevin Kennedy 

It’s not uncommon to have questions about the mentoring relationship that you’re a little afraid to ask. We have the answers to a few of them

Mentoring logistics, meeting etiquette, and graceful exits can be sensitive subjects when you’re beginning---or ending---a mentoring relationship. You may have other touchy questions, too. If you need an answer, email us at

Where should my mentor and I meet?
Work this out together. Often, mentoring sessions take place at the mentor’s office. You may also choose to meet in a quiet, mutually convenient public spot, such as a coffee shop or library. Do not meet at one another’s homes.

Who pays for coffee?
It would be nice if you did. If you can’t afford it, don’t meet at a restaurant or coffee shop.

Can it work to meet with my mentor by telephone?
Although most people prefer to get together in person, distance and scheduling may make that difficult. If phoning makes more sense, you can certainly have productive mentor sessions that way. Just set them up to avoid interruptions or distractions.

You may want to check in after two or three sessions to confirm that telephone mentoring is working well for both of you. But with a clear commitment and direct and honest communication, telephone mentoring can work.

Often, mentoring sessions take place at the mentor’s office. You may also choose to meet in a quiet, mutually convenient public spot.

What if my mentor and I don’t click?
Before concluding that the match isn’t working, make sure you’ve given the relationship a fair chance—at least three meetings. Often, people make a stronger connection as they get to know one another, and that takes time. Consider the strengths and experiences of the mentor you’ve chosen. Then focus on areas where your interests overlap.

I tried that and it didn’t work. How do I exit the mentor relationship?
Whether the problem is that you can’t seem to make time to get together or you can’t seem to communicate productively, there are ways to end the relationship on a cordial note:

  • Begin by stating clearly but diplomatically that you think it’s the right time to bring the relationship to a close. It will be easier to do this if, at the beginning, you agreed to review how the relationship was working after two or three sessions. No matter what, don’t just disappear without an explanation.
  • Speak of specific areas of progress you’ve experienced during the mentoring period. (There must be something.)
  • Thank your mentor for the time and effort and wish your mentor well.
  • Carefully consider what could have gone better and what you should do next time to head off a similar problem.