Mentoring is a learning collaboration in which the mentor and the mentee are equal parties who openly and attentively want to exchange thoughts, experiences and knowledge. Mentoring can be a good tool in career development.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is about helping another person to make their own decisions on a valid basis. Based on conversations with the mentor, the mentee will gain inspiration and new insights and perspectives to find their own answers and solutions.

As a mentor, you can make an important difference for a (younger) colleague by sharing your experience, knowledge, insight and skills. Being a mentor requires commitment and interest in the development of others. An important principle is that mentors receive no payment for their help. A desire to be part of the scheme is the most important element.

Which themes can be discussed?

The content of the mentor meetings depends on the topics the mentee needs to discuss. In relation to career development, this could be (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Feedback on CV
  • Help to develop and optimise an academic profile
  • Help in clarification of competences
  • Advice and ideas on how to become visible in relevant academic environments
  • Input on how to establish and strengthen networks
  • Strategic prioritisation of working hours and tasks
  • Work-life balance
  • For academic staff, the mentor could also provide advice and guidance on the process of senior researcher assessment or associate professor qualification.

Tasks and benefits for the mentee

The mentee must be prepared to spend the time necessary before and after meetings with the mentor. As a mentee, you are responsible for booking meetings in your calendars. You are also responsible for deciding the purpose and content of the meetings, including preparing an agenda.

After each meeting with the mentor, it is a good idea to spend time on reflection, recapitulation and follow-up. 

As a mentee, your main benefit from having a mentor is the opportunity to discuss different topics with an independent person. In addition, a mentorship programme can be an opportunity for

  • Personal development
  • Being challenged and receiving feedback
  • Being supported in your next steps
  • Utilising the mentor's experience and insight
  • Expanding your professional and personal network

Tasks and benefits for the mentor

As a mentor, you share your experience, knowledge, insight and skills with the mentee in order to support the mentee in his/her own development. Your task is therefore to listen, ask searching and challenging questions, give feedback, voice your opinion and share your own experiences related to areas chosen by the mentee. 

As a mentor, you do not need to be a specialist within a particular field or come from the same field of study as the mentee. What is most important is your ability to listen and ask supplementary, searching and clarifying questions. Find knowledge about and inspiration for active listening

As a mentor, the mentorship programme will provide you with the gratification and satisfaction that follows from helping a mentee’s professional and personal development. You also:

  • Gain new perspectives and up-to-date knowledge of professional developments and trends
  • Expand your network
  • Develop communication skills
  • Improve your self-awareness

Mentorship programme framework

The relationship between the mentor and the mentee must be a free space to discuss issues that are important for the mentee. For this reason, there should be no close professional or personal relationship and no dependency between the mentor and the mentee.

It takes time to establish a good relationship. The mentorship programme should therefore take place at regular meetings over a longer period of time, e.g. one year.

The first meeting should focus on whether the mentor and the mentee are the right match for each other, and then comes an alignment of expectations regarding the framework of the relationship. 

When the mentor and the mentee have agreed on the goals and framework, it is a good idea to draw up and sign an agreement. Suggested mentorship agreement (PDF)


In order to get the most out of the mentor meetings and to be able to adjust along the way, it is a good idea to spend a few minutes at the end of each meeting to evaluate.

Besides this, at the very last meeting the mentor and the mentee should evaluate the overall mentorship programme. 

Spend a few minutes each to answer the questions below and share your thoughts with each other before you part:

  1. Where in particular did I feel interested and energised?

  2. What lessons have become clear to me?

  3. What have I learned about myself at this meeting?