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How To End A Mentoring Relationship

The end of a mentoring relationship is bittersweet. On the one hand, the mentor and mentee say goodbye to a collaborative learning experience. At the same time, both gain a sense of fulfilment in making progress towards—or even achieving—the goals they set out at the beginning of the relationship. Some mentoring relationships are more structured than others, especially those facilitated by a mentoring programme. In these cases, mentoring pairs usually have an official ‘ending date’ set way in advance. However, whether or not the end date of your mentoring relationship might is clear, the way to go about concluding it in a way that brings closure to both the mentor and mentee is less obvious.

Below are some useful ways of approaching a final mentoring session and tips on how to effectively close off the relationship with your mentoring partner. One key value to keep in mind throughout the final mentoring session is directness: be open and honest about the experiences you shared with your mentoring partner as well as your expectations going forward.

Reflecting on Your Progress and Goals

It’s best to think of the final session with your mentoring partner as a relationship ‘debriefing’. Debriefing involves reflecting on what you’ve both learned and accomplished in order to gain a better perspective of what’s actually taken place over the course of your mentoring relationship. Separating the reflection on your progress towards your goals from your reflection of the relationship itself is sometimes a good way to identify which successes or difficulties were unique to the goals you set and what successes or difficulties were specific to the interpersonal dynamics between you and your mentoring partner.

Below are some good examples of the kinds of questions you could raise in the final session:

Goal-Specific Reflections

  • How much progress did we make towards the goals we set out at the beginning of the relationship?
  • What challenges did we face when working towards these goals?
  • What methods did we use to work through these challenges?

It might be useful to review your initial mentoring plan before the final session!

Relationship-Specific Reflections

  • What was good about the mentoring relationship?
  • What factors contributed to the success of the mentoring relationship?
  • What obstacles did we encounter during the mentoring relationship?
  • What tactics were successful in overcoming these obstacles?
  • What could we have done differently to avoid these difficulties?

The discussions that follow from these reflections should be a learning opportunity for both the mentor and mentee. The mentor can learn about the effectiveness of their mentoring style and communication skills, while the mentee receives essential feedback on their approach to goals and advice on what they’ll need to focus on after the mentoring relationship. Of course, simply reflecting on the relationship is a great way to bring about gratitude for the relationship since both partners will be able better appreciate the time and effort that went into the mentoring experience. Don’t forget to thank your mentoring partner for their commitment!

Preparing for the Post-Mentoring Period

In addition to giving their perspective on their mentee’s progress, it’s helpful for mentoring pairs to develop a roadmap highlighting what areas a mentee might need to focus on without their mentor going forward. For example, a mentor might believe that their mentee could benefit from additional communication or active listening practice. Here, they might ask their mentee to keep practising explaining their code to a non-technical colleague in an effort to refine their communication skills. Or, a mentor might think that their mentee needs a deeper understanding of coding principles. In this case, the mentor could provide their mentee with a reading list or any other resources they could access on their own as they refine their skills. It’s important for a mentor to advise their mentee on all the ways they can keep learning without them.

Future Collaboration

It’s not uncommon for mentor and mentee to decide to remain in contact. Sometimes mentoring relationships can even evolve into a personal friendship. What’s important in these situations is that both parties set clear expectations of what this communication or collaboration will look like. For example, is there another agreed-upon timeline for this extended communication period, or are you both willing to improvise? Is it simply the case that the mentee will update their former mentor on their career progress, or will the mentor be open to further ad hoc mentoring sessions? Perhaps you’ll both be fine with a casual catch-up over coffee once in a while? Whatever the arrangement, both the mentor and mentee should be honest about their capacity and willingness to continue in a more informal manner.