4 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Mentoring Relationship

According to an American Psychological Association study titled “The pursuit of personal goals: A motivational approach to well-being and life adjustment,” when your external goals align with your inward aspirations, setting and reaching goals has a positive impact on your well-being.

One way to reach the goals you set for yourself is through a mentoring relationship. While the traditional view of a mentoring relationship involves a mentor imparting wisdom and expertise to a mentee, it’s not as one-sided as it may first appear. In fact, both parties can benefit greatly from the collaboration. As Lois Zachary states in her book The Mentor’s Guide, “Mentoring at its very core is a learning relationship…” The mentee gains insightful wisdom on how to further their career, while the mentor is afforded the chance to hone and develop their leadership skills.

With the launch of the new ACFE Mentoring Program, it is the perfect time to explore how to use this career development tool to your best advantage. Here are four ways that you can get the most out of a mentoring relationship: 

  1. Find the right partner
    This may seem like a no-brainer because of course you’re hoping to find the perfect mentor or mentee. But, your ideal mentor or mentee might not be the first person you think of. Imagine you’re a mentee who works in data analytics and you are aiming for a promotion at your organization. Although it may be tempting to search for someone in a more senior position in the data analytics field, there may be another mentor whose area of expertise is in professional development. Or there could be a mentor who recently got a promotion that they worked hard to earn. Both of these latter options would have great advice as your mentor, so it’s important to keep an open mind when searching for a mentoring partner.
  2. Invest your time and energy
    As with any endeavor, you will get out of it what you put in. Outline a basic structure for the relationship. Make a plan that works for both individuals. Will you mostly communicate via email, phone or in person? What days and times work best? How much work can the mentee realistically take on between each meeting? (“Meeting” is used loosely because nowadays many mentoring relationships take place completely online.) Ultimately, it’s up to both the mentor and mentee to commit to their decided-upon schedule and invest in the relationship. For example, in the ACFE Mentoring Program, we’re asking both participants for a minimum of one hour per month for six months. This is a solid baseline to start with. As the relationship progresses, you and your partner can decide if you want to increase the frequency. 
  3. Set specific and realistic goals
    Best practices indicate that the mentee drives the relationship. It’s the mentee’s responsibility to reach out to a potential mentor, and it’s also the mentee’s responsibility to develop their own SMART goal. If you haven’t come across this acronym before, here’s what it stands for:


    Many mentees make the mistake of viewing a mentor relationship as a way to achieve every single goal they’ve ever dreamed of. However, this is not a realistic approach and can leave both the mentor and mentee feeling burnt out and dissatisfied with the relationship. By choosing one SMART goal to focus on throughout the entire six-month period, both the mentor and mentee have a clear path to proactively achieve the mentee’s goal. 
  4. Document your progress
    The reason mentees should set their own goal — as opposed to the mentor giving them a goal — is that it needs to line up with what the mentee wants from their career. In other words, it’s highly rewarding to accomplish a goal you’ve set for yourself. To get that rush of satisfaction, though, you have to keep a record. When the mentoring relationship comes to a close, it will be considerably difficult to look back and see how much you’ve grown and evolved if there’s no record. No matter what form your mentoring relationship takes, keep a log of your progress. This practice will help provide you with insights on what worked throughout the relationship and what you can improve in future relationships.

The first six-month mentoring period in the ACFE Mentoring Program begins July 16. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, visit Connect.ACFE.com/mentoring.