UCL Human Resources



The following guidance material has been designed to support both mentor and mentee in getting maximum value from their mentoring relationships.

Mentoring allocations are managed at departmental level. If you would like additional guidance please contact us at osd@ucl.ac.uk  

What is mentoring?


A relationship between two parties who are not connected within a line management structure. The mentor should be more experienced than the mentee and should guide the mentee towards an agreed objective that is connected to a career plan.

Mentoring at UCL supports staff to explore career pathways that are the best match for them personally and ultimately lead to success and fulfilment in their working life.

Appraisals now include a question asking if you are involved in a mentoring scheme (as a mentor, mentee, or both). Your involvement will be recognised as an important part of your career development. Being a mentor is also recognised in the UCL Academic Careers Framework as adding value to an application for promotion.

At the heart of mentoring is a relationship based on trust where one colleague uses their expertise and knowledge to support the professional development of another colleague. Through one-to-one confidential conversations, it provides a safe space for the mentee to listen, question, clarify, explore and act on their career options and aspirations.

Mentoring is not a counselling session, nor is it to be confused with coaching which focuses in on working through specific work-related problems.

Benefits of mentoring

The benefits of mentoring reach beyond the person who is being mentored, to the mentors themselves and the wider university community.

As a mentor you will benefit from:

  • Developing professional relationships beyond your usual ‘organisational reach’

  • Enhancing your professional reputation

  • Increasing your job satisfaction

  • Reflecting on your own careers through a new perspective

  • Developing interpersonal skills

As a mentee you will benefit from:

  • Increasing your self-awareness, motivation and confidence

  • Receiving impartial advice and encouragement

  • Building networking skills

  • Gaining greater clarity about your career aspirations

Mentoring responsibilities

Effective mentoring should be driven by the mentee being proactive, taking responsibility and planning action. Mentees should not rely on the mentor to make things happen for them.

As a mentor you should:

  • Build rapport with your mentee

  • Listen and accurately ascertain meaning

  • Ask questions and encourage critical thinking

  • Provide a framework for discussion while encouraging the mentee to take responsibility for content

  • Constructively challenge your mentee while remaining supportive

  • Take an interest in your mentee’s progress

As a mentee you should:

  • Take responsibility for the agenda of each meeting and your own learning

  • Prepare in advance of meetings and follow up/reflect afterwards

  • Commit to attending planned sessions and completing agreed action points

  • Be open to being challenged by your mentor and accept constructive feedback

  • Have realistic expectations that are shared and agreed with the mentor

  • Think and decide for youself on future actions

3-step mentoring process

Every mentoring relationship is unique with its own pattern and timeframes, however all have a beginning, middle and ending phase. This 3-Step Mentoring Process is detailed below.

Step 1 – Beginning your mentoring experience

It is important that the mentor and mentee gel. Ideally before agreeing to work together, the mentor and mentee should have a chemistry meeting to discover if their personalities and preferred ways of working are complementary.

If you’re both happy to work together, you should start off on the right foot by agreeing expectations. This brings into the open the expectations that each party has of the other. It enables negotiation and ensures both parties have the same understanding of mentoring, what they both want to get out of it and the ground rules to make it run smoothly.

A good solid expectations conversation will establish boundaries for the scope of the mentoring relationship. Setting some ‘ground rules’ around confidentiality, where, when and how often (ideally every 4-6 weeks) you meet and some mutually agreed topics of conversation will ensure both parties have the same understanding.

In terms of discussion topics, these should be ‘big picture’ topics relating to the mentee’s career pathway – for example, increasing their job satisfaction, job fulfilment or transitioning to a new role.

Step 2 – During your mentoring experience

While the agenda and topics of conversation should be driven by the mentee, it’s helpful for mentors to provide a framework for the discussion. The 5Cs of Mentoring is a useful model to help do this, though it will not always be a linear process nor covered in one meeting!

While the mentee should drive the conversation for most of the 5Cs (with the mentor in ‘questioning’ mode), the ‘Creative Solutions’ stage of the model is a great opportunity for the mentor to share some of their own experience/expertise and switch to making suggestions. 


Possible topics of conversation:

  • Developing professional networks
  • Transitioning to a new role
  • Identifying leadership opportunities
  • Working towards a promotion
  • Increasing job satisfaction
  • Exploring a career change


5Cs Model

Mentor Conversation Prompts


Let’s look at where you currently are in your career…

  • What are the broad challenges you’re facing?
  • Which of these is most pressing?
  • What would ‘success’ look like for you?


Let’s start with the most pressing challenge…

  • How could you tackle this challenge?
  • Have you tried anything before? If yes, how did it go? If not, what do you think your options might be?
  • Is there anything else you could do?
  • Anything else?

Repeat to generate multiple choices…


Let’s look at the first choice you identified…

  • What are the likely consequences of (your first) choice?
  • What are the positives… and negatives?
  • What about (another) choice?
  • What are the positives… and negatives?

Repeat to consider the consequences of all choices…


Let’s step back for a moment and see if there are any other options we haven’t already thought of…

  • Have you ever been in a similar situation and if so, what did you do then? If not…
  • Do you know anyone else who has experienced similar challenges that you could learn from?
  • I’d like to share something from my own experience that I think could help here…

Based on all of your options, now what do you think would be best?




Let’s explore the option you’ve chosen…

  • What action(s) are you going to take now?
  • What steps will you need to take first?
  • How and when will you start?
  • What can you do to get some early successes?
  • How can I help you get there?

Continue to monitor progress with actions in further meetings… 

Step 3 – Ending your mentoring experience

Although a mentoring relationship can be ongoing, we recommend that a minimum of six months to one year is usually a good amount of time to see real change/progress  

It’s important for both parties to evaluate the experience and what you’ve gained in terms of your career pathways, thinking back to how ‘success’ was defined at the beginning and whether the experience was aligned

It’s also important to celebrate your achievements both as a mentee and a mentor. This helps to crystallise the value of mentoring to the mentee and the mentor and UCL as a whole, and hopefully encourages others to take up the opportunity of mentoring

When a mentoring relationship finishes, both parties should agree next steps. This might include keeping in touch, sharing successes and opening doors for others.