University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources


Mentoring involves a sustained relationship to foster success via support, tutoring, guiding and facilitating. Note that many of these suggestions are from the University's Commission on Women's Mentoring for the 1990s and beyond.

First, delineate your relationship:

  • Discuss the goals each of you have for the relationship.
  • Make it clear which parts of your life will remain private.
  • Set the parameters: be direct and specific about the focus of the relationship.
  • Acknowledge power dynamics and discuss these when they emerge.
  • Decide how formal or informal your relationship will be (e.g., what names will you call each other? How and when do you communicate?).

Maintain the relationship:

  • Be open and flexible. Change your expectations as the relationship changes.
  • Develop a trust of one another. Talk about it if you don't see it happening.
  • Discover your commonalities and differences.
  • Regularly discuss how the relationship is going, before conflict arises.


  • Competition with each other.
  • Unrealistic or undisclosed expectations.
  • Poor relationship boundaries.
  • Demanding an exclusive relationship.
  • Unwillingness to share information.
  • Shortchanging the amount of time needed to sustain the relationship.
  • Discounting one another's ideas.
  • Too much dependence on each other.
  • Expecting a friendship, although it might turn into one.
  • Expecting a sustained intimate relationship.


  • Give regular feedback.
  • Give direct and thoughtful comments.
  • Share your own work as appropriate.
  • Be accessible and prompt to respond to communications from your mentee.
  • Avoid undue control or excessive demands.


  • Ask for feedback about your work.
  • Give your mentor feedback about their help.
  • Communicate what you want the mentor to do differently.
  • Remember that cultural background may affect your communications.
  • Remember that you are responsible for your choices; the mentor provides resources, guidance, and modeling.
  • Remember that your mentor has many demands on their time; allow reasonable time for them to respond to your requests.
  • Express your gratitude.