OLA Mentoring Guidelines


What does a mentor do in the mentoring relationship?

The mentor should be the one to take the initiative to make the initial contact with the mentee (as soon as the match is made) and elicit the mentees goals and expectations. A mentor listens carefully to his or her mentee’s goals, strengths, and struggles. Based on those goals, the mentor supports the mentee in meeting his or her goals through questioning, providing guidance and feedback, sharing his or her own experiences, and possibly connecting the mentor with other individuals or groups who could help. Every mentoring relationship will unfold differently based on the individuals involved, but the purpose of mentoring is not to tell the mentee what to do, but to help the mentee make his or her own informed decisions. The mentor should be supportive, not critical or negative, and should remember that everyone’s experiences and priorities are different.


What does a mentee do in the mentoring relationship?

A mentee communicates his or her goals and professional situation clearly to the mentor. He or she listens critically and objectively to the feedback and guidance received, keeping in mind that the mentor is speaking from his or her specific experience and priorities. It’s up to the mentee to ensure that the relationship is beneficial by keeping in contact, clearly communicating expectations, actively addressing problems, and asking for help when needed.


Setting goals and expectations

Both the mentor and the mentee should start by discussing their expectations for the mentoring relationship. This should be clarified as soon as possible, because not understanding each other’s expectations for the relationship could lead to disappointment. A mentor should ask his or her mentee about what the mentee’s goals are and what he or she is looking for from the relationship. Mentees should be clear about what they hope to get out of the mentoring relationship, particularly with respect to goals, which will form the foundation of their work with the mentor. Issues like frequency of meetings, availability, and modes of contact should be agreed upon from the start.

Mentors and mentees are expected to be in contact at least 5-6 times during the year or nine months that they are working together. However, contact can be more frequent or last longer than a year if this is mutually agreed upon.


Ways to keep in contact

The mentor and mentee should establish together which mode(s) they prefer to use to keep in contact:

  • In-person
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Web conferencing (through OLA’s GoToMeeting subscription or other tools like Skype or Google Hangouts)

The OLA Annual Conference may provide a convenient venue to meet in person, though mentors and mentees are under no obligation to attend the conference.



Given that the mentoring relationship requires trust, communications between the mentee and mentor should be kept confidential.


If things are not going well

Occasionally, the mentoring relationship doesn’t work out. This can be a result of bad fit, a mentor or mentee who doesn’t actively participate in the relationship, or communication issues. If this happens, the best way to approach it is to first address the issue with the mentor/mentee. If this does not rectify the problem, contact the OLA Leadership Committee at [email protected] who can try and help fix the problem.


At the end of the year (or nine-month period)

At the end of the year or nine-month mentoring period, the mentor and mentee will be asked to complete a survey evaluating their experience with the mentoring program. After this point, the mentoring relationship can continue informally, so long as both parties agree. However, after this point, the mentoring relationship is no longer under the formal OLA Mentoring Program and its guidelines.