Mentoring is an intentional and nurturing process which fosters the development of the mentee towards the goal of achieving their full potential. Mentoring is also an insightful process in which the wisdom of the mentor is acquired and applied by the beneficiary.

There is more than one way to view the mentoring process. A more formal one is discussed a bit below, but before that, you can see the agricultural analogy for the process.

Agricultural analogy of the mentoring process

This model of mentoring is presented by Zachary[1] who applied an agricultural analogy to demonstrate how the mentoring process phases can be connected to each other. Mentoring relationships progress through predictable phases, each one building on the previous phase to form a developmental sequence:

It is worth keeping this model in mind, as many times mentoring relationships can appear as finished, only to transform themselves into a new form for both sides.

Intentional mentoring process

On the other hand, the mentoring process could be seen as more linear process. It could relate to the reflective model in which mentoring is seen as an intentional, nurturing, and insightful process which provides a powerful growth experience for both the mentor and mentee. Further, the authors – Wong and Premkumar – describe the mentoring relationship process as consisting of four stages – preparing, negotiating, enabling, and reaching closure.[2]

A guide for mentors and mentees developed by the American Psychological Association, as seen below, presents the mentoring process in four stages – initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition stage.

The American Psychological Association Four Stages of the Mentoring Process

In the initiation stage two individuals enter into a mentoring relationship. There are different approaches based on the formality of the mentoring relationship. For informal mentoring, the matching process occurs through professional or social interactions between potential mentors and mentees. Potential mentees search for experienced, successful people whom they respect, admire, and perceive as good role models. Potential mentors search for talented people who are “mentorable”.  The research on mentoring defines this stage as a period when a potential mentee proves themselves worthy of a mentor’s attention and time. Both parties seek for a positive, enjoyable relationship that would validate the extra time and effort required in a mentoring process.

The cultivation stage is the primary stage of learning and development. Supposing a successful initiation stage, during the cultivation stage, the mentee learns from the mentor. Two broad mentoring functions are at their peak during this stage. The career-related purpose frequently emerges first when the mentor guides the mentee on how to work effectively and efficiently. The psychosocial function emerges after the mentor and mentee have established an interpersonal bond. Within this function, the mentor accepts and confirms the mentee’s professional identity and the relationship matures into a strong friendship. The cultivation stage is normally a positive one for both mentor and mentee. The mentor teaches the mentee valuable lessons gained from the mentor’s experience and proficiency. The mentee may also teach the mentor valuable lessons related to new technologies, new methodologies, and emerging issues in the field.

The separation stage largely describes the end of a mentoring relationship. The relationship may end for a number of reasons, among which nothing is left to learn, the mentee may want to establish an independent identity, or the mentor may decide it is time for the mentee to be on their own. If the relationship’s end is not acceptable for both parties, this stage can be stressful with one party unwilling to accept the loss. There could be problems between the mentor and mentee when only one party wants to dismiss the mentoring relationship.

Throughout the redefinition stage, both mentor and mentee realise that their relationship could continue, but that it will not be the same as their mentoring relationship. If both parties successfully negotiate through the separation stage, the relationship can evolve into a collegial relationship or social friendship. Unlike the cultivation stage, the focus of the relationship is no longer only on the mentee’s career development. The former mentor may establish mentoring relationships with new mentees. Likewise, the former mentee can turn into a mentor to others.

This information is based on the research from the book “Mentoring – Process, Guidelines and Programs” by Assoc. Prof. Daniela Ilieva-Koleva, published in 2015

[1] Zachary, L. J. (2000). The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 261. ISBN 978-0-470-90772

[2] Wong, A., Premkumar, K. (2007) An Introduction to Mentoring Principles, Processes, and Strategies for Facilitating Mentoring Relationships at a Distance


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus + programme under Grant Agreement No 2016-2-RO01-KA205-024839.
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