Stomping the Yard

Stomping the Yard: How to Be a Good Mentee

Our college blogger Kelly Fair shares tips for being a good mentee.
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I’ve had the great opportunity over the years to work with many college interns, apprentices, and mentees. And, trust me I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to guiding and mentoring college students.

They all come in the door with their “I’mma be speeches.” For example, “I’mma be the next media mogul,” “I’mma be a non-profit leader,” or “ I’mma be the next powerful politician.”

Most of these students “get it” though, and recognize that they need support and guidance to get to the next level in their careers, and they eagerly seek out the best mentors, or advisors in their area of expertise. But the problem is once some students score a rock star mentor, they fail epically, because they make too many mistakes and become undesirable mentees.

I’ve seen so many young people ruin really great opportunities to be led by awesome and influential people, as well as their reputations as budding professionals, too. If you don’t want to join the ranks of The Ratchet College Mentees then check out my tips below on the do’s and don’ts:

• Keep Your Commitments: You’ve asked someone to give you their time and mentor you and typically extra time is not something that the most desirable rock star mentors have. So you should consider their time as priceless. I’ve had interns call off work claiming to be sick. But, they forgot they’re my Facebook friend so I saw their statuses about being totally turned up the night before and too hungover to make it to work. Even if they had unfriended me, their lack of commitment would show up in some other way, trust me!

• Be Teachable: Why work so hard to find a mentor if you’re never willing to follow her advice? Learning something new can be tough and involves making lots of mistakes. Some of the things your mentor recommends may seem unfamiliar, unrealistic, or down-right scary. Give her advice a chance. They are far more experienced than you and know what will make you successful. If you’re going to challenge or dismiss every piece of her advice, then you’re wasting her time and yours as well.

• Take Initiative/ Ask for Feedback: Sometimes you can be so in awe of how accomplished your new mentor is that you’re too afraid to say or do anything fearing you’ll make a mistake. But being apprehensive won’t cut it in the dog-eat-dog world of interning. You will sometimes have to initiate coffee meetings, phone calls, and email updates. And make sure to ask him for feedback about your progress and how you can improve. Don’t wait for your mentor to read your mind. People can only help those who make an effort to be helped.

• Say Thank You: Take the time to say “thank you” at the end of each email communication and each phone call. You should also take time to write an actual thank-you letter or send a card. In a digital world, hand-written cards definitely set you apart from your classmates who won’t take the time to do the same. I’ve seen so many students stay around to get mentored by someone just long enough to get the mentor to write a much needed recommendation letter. Then the student is never to be heard from again. Nobody likes to feel dumped, including your mentor. Say “thank you” and show how appreciative you are of your mentor’s efforts.

• Give Back: Take a younger student under your wings and mentor them. Random acts of kindness like this help improve our community as a whole. Additionally, you get a chance to get a taste of what it feels like to mentor a younger student through their mistakes and faults. It all makes you think twice before falling into the traps of being a ratchet mentee!

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair


Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blogand on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.