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How to Prepare Your Members for an Awesome Mentoring Session

Author: Sayana Izmailova
October 1, 2021
🕑 6 min read

Are you in charge of a budding mentorship program at your association? You’ve designed the program, recruited participants, and matched mentees with their mentors. Now you may be asking, is it time to let them go off and meet on their own or is there more you should be doing?

Many of your members are likely participating in a mentorship program for the first time, so it’s up to you to provide them with guidance and support. This will ensure that the program runs smoothly and benefits everyone involved.

Read on to find out what you can do to help mentors and mentees have a successful first mentoring session and get the program off to a great start.

What Is a Mentoring Session?

A mentoring session is a meeting between a mentor and a mentee. It takes place on a regular basis and can be in-person or virtual.

The purpose of these meetings is for mentors and mentees to exchange information and work together towards achieving the mentee’s professional goals. The mentor may offer advice, share knowledge, talk about their own past experience, and help the mentee come up with a plan for moving forward.

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Why Should My Organization Have a Mentorship Program?

The number of membership organizations who’ve recently created a mentorship program for their members has been trending upward. This is because mentorship programs offer clear benefits for everyone involved.

Mentees receive invaluable support in navigating their careers from experienced professionals in their industry. Mentors get the chance to develop their leadership skills and experience personal and professional growth.

Most importantly, a mentorship program creates member development opportunities and adds value to the organization’s member experience, meaning members are more engaged, new members are more likely to join, and existing members are more likely to renew.

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6 Steps to a Successful First Mentoring Session

To help your members experience the full benefits of a mentorship program, help guide them to success from their very first mentoring session. Here’s how:

1. Provide Resources

As soon as you’ve paired mentors and mentees, get in touch with them and provide them with everything they need to get started. This should include information about what they can expect from the program, the proposed schedule, what’s expected of them, and what they should aim to accomplish.

Make sure they are familiar with the structure of the program and understand their respective roles as mentor and mentee. More often than not, both parties tend to rely on each other to drive the progress, when in reality, mentorship should be a partnership where they both put in an equal amount of effort.

Lastly, provide your contact information and make sure they know that they can get in touch with you should they need any further support.

2. Prepare Topics

The first mentoring session should be all about giving the mentor and mentee an opportunity to get to know each other and establish a comfortable relationship. This will lead to a much more meaningful experience for both of them.

Some pairs will naturally find common ground and engage in conversation without any outside help. Others may need a bit more guidance. That’s why it can be helpful to provide a list of potential topics to discuss. For pairs who may have a tendency to get off topic, this list will also help keep them on track and make the most of their time together.

Here are a few examples of discussion topics you can prepare:

  • What brought you to the association/organization?
  • What has your professional experience been like so far?
  • What challenges are you facing in your career?
  • What are you hoping to get out of this mentorship program?

3. Design a Goal-Setting Framework

An effective mentorship experience is centered around clearly defined goals that the mentor and mentee can work together to achieve. To help them do this, provide a goal-setting template that they can fill out and refer to during each of their sessions.

Include sections that answer the following questions:

  • What are the short- and long-term goals of the mentee?
  • When should they ideally be achieved by?
  • How will success be measured?
  • What obstacles is the mentee facing in achieving their goals?
  • What can the mentor do to help with these goals?
  • For each goal, are there milestones or sub-goals that need to be reached?
  • How often should the mentor and mentee check-in on the progress of each goal?

4. Create a Schedule

Each mentor-mentee pair should be free to meet whenever and however often is most convenient for them. That being said, it’s still helpful to provide a few recommendations, especially for those who need structure in order to stay consistent with their meetings.

In your recommendations, specify how often the pairs should meet and how long each session should be. Let them know that sessions can be in-person, virtual, or a mix of both, and provide a few tips on how to make them work.

It’s also not a bad idea to create a sample schedule for each meeting. Sticking to a rough agenda can help the pairs stay on track and accomplish as much as possible during each meeting.

5. Define Action Items

Provide each pair with a template that will help them keep track of their action items. At the end of each session, they can discuss and write down what they both agree to do before the next time they meet. At the beginning of each session, they can review what they’ve been able to cross off that list.

This will mostly apply to the mentees, but mentors may also have a few to-dos, such as sharing an educational resource, introducing the mentee to a new contact, and other things of this nature. Having a list of these tasks will help make sure they actually get done.

6. Create a Feedback Loop

A successful mentorship program is one that’s constantly improving. To facilitate this, establish a culture where feedback is always welcome. Encourage each mentor-mentee pair to regularly check in with each other about how their sessions are going (consider creating a template to formalize this process).

On top of this, check-in with the pairs yourself to ask how you can help better serve them. Outside of these check-ins, make sure they understand that they can always come to you with feedback, questions, concerns, and suggestions.

Mentoring Session Ideas to Give to Your Members

Mentees often find the first few mentoring sessions to be the most beneficial, but they tend to lose momentum once their most important goals have been achieved.

In order to keep the momentum going and make sure the mentoring sessions continue to be valuable, provide your participants with plenty of ideas for new topics to discuss and new goals to set.

Here are just a few examples of what they can do during their sessions:

  • The mentor can review the mentees resume and/or cover letter
  • The mentor can help the mentee prepare for an interview or a presentation
  • The mentor can give advice on how to go through a performance evaluation
  • The mentor can give advice on how to discuss difficult topics with a manager
  • The mentor can help identify gaps in the mentee’s skillset and recommend next steps for filling them

What’s Next?

Creating a mentorship program at your association is an excellent way to increase member engagement and satisfaction. If you’re looking for more ways to engage your members, be sure to download our free Member Satisfaction Survey template — it makes regularly surveying your members a breeze, which means you can better serve their needs, provide them with value, and keep them happy.

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