What is mentorship?

Welcome to this series of four films where the leadership specialists Lena Sobel and Matilda Drakvingen guide you through mentorship. The purpose with this material is to support mentorship programs or individual mentors and mentees at KI. In the first film, we will look into what mentorship is. The related work material gives more information about the topic and reflective questions.

Film 1

Work material 

What distinguishes mentorship from other dialogues?

Let us take a moment to clarify the concepts:


Is more of a treatment to health issues, for the body, mind and/or psychosocial problems. Psychological therapy tends to focus on emotions and seeks causes to problems. The relationship itself is also different. In therapy, we have a professional expert and a client, whereas mentorship is more of an equal relationship where the mentor often has superior knowledge in the area in which the mentee wants to learn more. 


Is about helping someone to find their own solutions to their problems and to take responsibility for them. Coaching is about asking questions. The coach is an expert at being a coach, but does not need to have any knowledge of the focus person´s world. A coach does not give advice. You can go to a coach if you want help with developing yourself and improving in a particular area.


Is to help someone in his or her professional career. The mentor is expected to have experience within the area in which the mentee wants to improve. The mentor is a role model, advisor, teacher and friend. It is also a person who has either been matched with the mentee or whom the mentee has choosen him- or herself. As a rule of thumb, the mentor does not receive economic compensation for his or her efforts. Both the coach and the mentor use similar dialogue techniques such as questions and listening. 


Consultants are expected to be experts in a subject, specific industry or business area. They are hired to investigate, analyse and deliver proposals and plans. Consultants provide answers whereas coaches and mentors ask questions that help the person to find her or his own answers. Once the consultant’s report has been submitted, the assignment is complete. An  advisor/consultant is for you who want expert opinion, “best practices”, or to implement organisational changes for which the consultant has developed a method.

”Do this"

Some times, there are no room for eliciting answers from the focus person nor is it practically possible to do so. For instance, a manager may need to give an order. Or perhaps there is already a proven best way to do something. Or maybe it is just a matter of urgency. You can seek this help when you are not sure how to do something but suspect that there is a right way and that expert knowledge already exists. 

Figure: Lena Sobel
Figure: Lena Sobel

Checklist mentee

Before you apply to a mentorship program or ask an acquaintance if she/he wants to be your mentor, it is wise to reflect on the following questions:

  • What do you want? What would be different if you have a mentor?
  • Give example of one thing that you would like to improve in your life, if you could (work, private life...)?
  • What would this lead to?
  • Who in your surrounding knows something about this, or knows someone who knows?
  • What are your demands and expectations of the mentor?
  • What are your demands and expectations of the mentorship?
  • How much time are you prepared to invest in dialogues and between the dialogues?

Checklist mentor

Of course, the same applies for the mentor. Consider the following questions before signing up for a mentorship program or agreeing to be someone’s mentor.

  • Why do you want to be a mentor?
  • What can you share: knowledge, experiences, contacts etc.?
  • What are your demands and expectations of the mentee?
  • What are your demands and expectations of the mentorship?