How to Break Up With Your Mentor

1 minutes

When you consider that 97% of people with mentors consider the experience to be highly valuable and an asset to their professional and personal development, we can safely conclude that mentoring is a positive thing.

Yet sometimes, a mentee might find themselves needing to end a mentorship sooner than expected. A mis-matched pair, or a misalignment in skillset may mean you want to call time on your mentor. 

This begs the question, how do you break up with a mentor?

In this article, we explore how to end a mentoring relationship, professionally and with tact. As well as the tell-tale signs that your mentorship might need a review. 

When should I end a mentoring relationship?

While we can’t tell you this without talking to you personally, we can offer some helpful suggestions as to when wrapping up a mentoring relationship is necessary. This is one of those situations where the answers are specific to you, your goals, and your mentoring relationship – but there are common themes we can explore. 

However, we can suggest a few potential reasons why a mentorship may need to end: 

  • Lack of chemistry: Perhaps you and your mentor don’t ‘click’, and you are not getting the best results from your mentoring sessions. This is a valid reason to seek out a different mentor. 
  • You’ve reached your goals: If you have hit the marks you were aiming for, then that’s cause for celebration – it’s always valuable to savour achievements like this. But it could also be a sign that it’s time to plan your final session and say your goodbyes.
  • Life and career changes: Life and careers often change. Perhaps you get promoted, or have a child. This could result in having to reprioritise your work-life balance, meaning that your mentoring sessions need to come to an end.
  • The relationship has soured: As much as we like to keep things positive, sometimes mentorships can go bad. If your mentor is misbehaving or you feel uncomfortable in the relationship, it’s definitely time to call it a day.

mentor-mentee activity - coffee chatWhat happens when a mentoring relationship isn’t working?

Generally, when a mentoring relationship is no longer functioning in the productive manner that it is purposed to, there will be a number of tell-tale signs. They can come from mentee or mentor equally.

If any of these things start to happen it’s worth addressing them head on, as you can resolve issues together. However, if the problem’s persist it may be time to call curtains on your mentorship and find another. 

Tell-tale signs it’s time to call it a day:

  • Lack of preparation: If you or your mentor is showing up to the sessions without the full preparation – whether in the form of missing notes, foregoing new developments, or any other lacking administrative capacity – this is a sign that a party is disengaged. Engagement is vital for mentoring sessions. It’s tough to get far without it.
  • Missing/cancelling sessions: If you find yourself missing and cancelling sessions then this is a sign of disengagement too. Missing the odd session here and there is fine, but if the action repeats continuously then you need to discuss it together, and consider moving on if it doesn’t improve. This, once again, could stem from either party.
  • Early endings: Often, the tendency to end sessions early is a sign that you have achieved a lot already and that you potentially no longer need the sessions. But it’s also the general sign that the motivation is gone, or that it is not reciprocated.

Ultimately, discussing these issues head on is the ideal solution. You can simply ask, “I’ve noticed you’ve been cancelling meetings quite often lately, is there a particular reason for this?”

And you know what? With some communication and compassion, the relationship could be rekindled. But if not, then you’ve reached the heart of the matter and know that it’s time to move on. 

How to end your mentoring relationship on a positive note

If you do decide that the mentorship is no longer working for you and you realise that the time to end your mentoring relationship is nigh, then your next question will naturally be how to end it.

This may feel awkward, but remember, it’s ok for you to assert your needs as the mentee. As long as you are tactful, direct, and communicate your career needs well, you have no cause to worry.

Here are a few considerations to make in regards to ending your mentoring relationship: 

  • Don’t wait around too long: In a situation like this, it’s best not to drag the process out. You may need time to prepare your closing remarks, but not communicating this for weeks serves only to waste time for both mentor and mentee.
  • Say thank you: Make sure you thank your mentor for all of their assistance and advice. This will reinforce the fact that the time was valuable and helped you in your career progression, or other endeavours for which you started the relationship to begin with.
  • Remain in touch: Exchange emails, numbers and what have you so that you can remain in touch. This further ensures the positivity of the relationship, but also adds another notch to your network. Networking is fundamental for career development.
  • Discuss and feedback the relationship: It is also worth discussing the milestones of the relationship and giving each other feedback. This way, you are helping each other out for future endeavours. Plus, it validates the entire process further.

The verdict

Ending a mentoring relationship can be a tough call, especially if you’ve been working together for a while. But if you take all of these tips into account, you are certain to end the relationship in a respectful, tactful manner where the bridge isn’t burned. The best part: if, after some time, you feel that you could benefit from the assistance of your previous mentor, you will be able to do so.

If you need further guidance check out our other resources: 

How to Find a Great Mentor

50 Questions to Ask a Mentor

How to Get the Most Out of Mentorship

How to Run a Productive Mentoring Session

How to Be a Good Mentee

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