All successful mentoring relationships have a few key elements in common: clear and honest communication, realistic objectives, and a structured plan for success. ACP encourages those beginning their mentorships to read through the ACP Mentoring Handbook to help define the trajectory of the mentorship, as well as to use the ACP Career Assessment & Objectives questionnaire to identify goals and objectives for the mentorship. Mentors and Protégés may use this page to fine-tune their mentoring strategies. Please visit the ACP Resource Center for additional tips on career and professional development.

Communicating Clear Expectations

ACP strongly recommends that Mentors and Protégés clearly communicate expectations early in the relationship. Make this discussion a priority for the first or second meeting or phone call, so that each party understands the responsibilities he or she is agreeing to.

  • Protégés should be prepared to tell their Mentors what they would like to gain from the mentorship, and in what ways the Mentor’s help would be most greatly appreciated and beneficial.
  • Mentors should be prepared to respond to the Protégé, about what he or she can work toward or promise, as well as identify potentially unrealistic expectations.

Clearly communicating expectations from the beginning not only sets a standard for honest communication and mutual responsibility, but also decreases the possibility of misunderstandings later on.

Setting Realistic Goals and Objectives

American Corporate Partners strongly recommends that at the onset of the mentoring relationship, the Protégé and Mentor identify goals and objectives to achieve during the mentorship. ACP also encourages each Mentor-Protégé pair to address whether goals and objectives are realistic. Keep in mind that the scope of what each pair hopes to accomplish should be attainable within the year of the mentorship. 

  • Mentoring pairs should avoid unrealistic expectations, such as swift advancement, "quick-fixes" on employment issues, or immediate integration of new professional skills and ideas. 
  • Mentors can use their knowledge of the market or of a particular industry to help manage the Protégé's expectations of what can be accomplished during the course of the year, and which objectives may take longer to reach.

Recommended Mentoring Program and Activities

ACP recommends that Mentors and Protégés jointly develop an Action Plan that focuses on achieving goals and objectives during the yearlong engagement. The achievement of benchmarks should be monitored regularly and reassessed when necessary. The plan should allow for at least twelve “significant discussions” to take place during the year. 

ACP also recommends that Mentors and Protégés consider a variety of activities throughout the course of their mentoring relationships, so that goals remain fresh and activities varied. Varying mentoring activities will help build a strong foundation, as well as make the mentorship more dynamic and sustainable. Consider activities that range from career-focused to social, and which take place between only you and your Mentor or Protégé, or with other Mentor-Protégé pairs.

Quarter 1: Career Assessment and Objectives

The Career Assessment & Objectives Questionnaire should be completed by the Protégé prior to the first meeting and discussed with the Mentor in order to determine an Action Plan. Protégés should be honest and realistic about their needs and objectives, and Mentors will need to recognize what they can deliver before committing to a particular outcome. ACP recommends the remainder of the initial quarter be spent building a relationship between the Mentor and Protégé in which both parties get to know each other beyond their professional experiences and career goals. The best mentoring relationships are built around trust, mutual respect, and open communication.

  • Establish a Top-10 list of realistic and achievable goals to be met over the course of the mentorship
  • Devise a complete yearlong Action Plan with strategies for meeting each benchmark
  • Discuss current events, news, politics or other areas of mutual interest
  • Go over the intangibles of professional success, such as attire, grooming, organizing your desk/office, and managing your free time
  • Talk about mentors or role models each of you has had in the past and how they impacted your life or career
  • Describe the most challenging moment in your career and how you dealt with it, or discuss “Things I learned on my own that I wish someone had told me” 
  • Sign up for a class or workshop together at a local college or library
  • Set up “Shadow Days” to allow the Protégé to observe the Mentor at work
  • Read a book, periodical, magazine, or journal or watch a movie together and discuss
  • The Protégé can discuss his or her experience in the service to help the Mentor gain general knowledge about the military
  • Try doing a new sport or activity together, or attend a sporting event together

Quarter 2: Networking Enrichment

In many cases the Protégé will benefit from being introduced to others within the Mentor’s corporation, whether it be to learn about different lines of work, or to meet others who may be considered role models and offer alternative perspectives in line with the Protégé’s objectives. Ideally, the Protégé will be introduced to three other professionals from the Mentor’s corporation during the quarter so that three “significant discussions” of one hour or longer may be achieved during this time period. 

  • Attend the Mentor’s company networking events together, conduct office tours, and introduce the Protégé to colleagues
  • Arrange a group sporting event, such as basketball, soccer, or golf with the Mentor’s coworkers
  • Prepare for and attend a job fair together, and network with other professionals at the fair
  • Discuss conversation starters that can be used at networking events
  • Help the Protégé develop an "Elevator speech"
  • Arrange to meet with a person in a department of the Mentor’s company with whom the Mentor has not interacted or does not know
  • Temporarily swap Protégés with a company colleague or spend time with other Mentor-Protégé pairs in the company
  • Give the Protégé a writing or other project and have him or her work through several revisions with colleagues (or writing specialists) in the company
  • Learn a new computer application or workflow together and have a colleague or friend give you both a tutorial

Quarter 3: Job Preparation and Career Development

ACP recommends that Mentors offer assistance with various skills required of Protégés who will be applying for a job or building a career. Examples may include: third party skill assessment, personality typing (example: Myers-Briggs), résumé review, interview training and public speaking. Mentors may wish to engage their corporate Human Resources department.

  • Review professional résumé templates and send the Protégé’s résumé to friends and colleagues for feedback
  • Mentor and Protégé can set up LinkedIn profiles and virtual CVs together
  • Invite the Protégé to give presentations at the Mentor’s office meetings
  • Help the Protégé assemble a professional portfolio including work samples and writing samples, academic transcripts and records, performance evaluations, complimentary emails/praise, letters of recommendation, and copies of diplomas, awards and certificates
  • Watch interviews on YouTube and critique them together
  • Set up mock interviews for the Protégé with Human Resources professionals at the Mentor’s company
  • Mentor and Protege can videotape each other conducting a practice interview or public speaking, and then review and give feedback to one another
  • Brainstorm ways of highlighting military skills in a manner that is understandable to those without a military background
  • Discuss how to negotiate salary, ask for a raise, and make requests of superiors
  • Brainstorm a list of skills the Protégé acquired in the military and how these skills translate to the civilian workforce
  • The Protégé can identify three companies her or she is interested in, and schedule informational interviews at these companies, and the Mentor and Protégé can work together to prepare a list of talking points for the interviews

Quarter 4: Program Recap & Professional Networking

The final quarter should commence with a review of the Protégé’s original Career Assessment and Objectives Questionnaire to determine if the original objectives are on a path toward being realized. The remainder of the quarter may be best spent with the Mentors assisting the Protégés in building their own professional networks. Ideally, the Mentor will introduce the Protégé to three other professionals from outside the Mentor’s corporation so that three “significant discussions” of one hour or longer may be achieved during this time period. Mentors and Protégés may wish to discuss the ways the Protégé can continue his or her own professional development beyond the yearlong program. 

  • Meet one-on-one to review the Protégé’s original objectives
  • Contact friends and colleagues who can give the Protégé helpful tips about how to carry on brief, effective, pitch-oriented conversations
  • Set up lunches, dinners, etc. between the Protégé and professionals outside the company
  • Attend a company sales expo, listen to sales pitches, and network with people at the event
  • Attend a charity event, wine tasting, or gallery opening together and attempt to meet at least two people and learn about their line of work
  • Start a collaborative project that requires outreach to professionals at different companies
  • Begin developing 2-year, 5-year and 10-year plans for network growth for both the Protégé and Mentor and compare them
  • Brainstorm ways of keeping your networks fresh and current


Throughout your mentorship, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call your ACP Operations Associate, or consult the Resource Center of the ACP website for more information on potential activities and approaches to the mentorship.