The team at Graduate Mentor have started running monthly learning and development sessions for our mentors so they can benefit from the wealth of experience from over 300 active mentors on the programme. The aim is to share advice from their experience which can then be passed on to mentees. We plan to cover all early talent and career related advice. This month we chose the topic of “Managing Up”. What follows is a summary of our discussion to enable all our mentors to use the advice in their own one-to-one mentoring sessions.

Managing Up. What is it? Firstly, a definition: Managing up is managing your relationship with your boss. Understanding their management style, background, experience, motivations and communication preferences as a graduate trainee can help build rapport, achieve a better working relationship and improve your chances of success.

How do You Like to be Managed?

The first thing we discussed was getting our mentees to to think about this question. Describe their best and worst boss. What was the difference? This activity should help them understand themselves better in working relationships and take control of their early career steps before they enter the workplace.

Role Play

Before starting a job, mentors discussed how mentees can start to learn how to manage up through role playing a manager-employee work scenario which can be a powerful learning experience. This exercise can help ease their nerves and can put theory into action. Of course, some mentees can benefit from this more than others, it’s all about finding out how your mentee learns best, but even if they are shy, role playing can help bring them out of their shell and improve their communication skills in a non-threatening environment.

Face-to-Face Contact

Once in employment, it was suggested in the discussion that WFH may not be the best-case scenario when a mentee is starting out in their career. As a mentor, we should encourage our mentees to try and look for hybrid working, as this allows them to have the full support they need from their manager, but also the benefit of working in their own comforting space at home as well. Being present in the office is an essential building block to manager-employee relations as it also gives graduates the opportunity build their social capital through bonding with their colleagues and have a more sociable experience in their first graduate role.


When our mentees start their career journey as a graduate trainee, they should expect, or ask for, regular one-to-ones with a their boss to check in on how they are doing.  Over-communication is key. These should be weekly at least and have actions for the next meeting. Allowing your mentee to understand the importance of communication in the workplace will keep their goals in plain sight and allow them to excel further in their career.

Two Way Feedback

Giving and receiving feedback in a mentoring session is one of the most important aspects mentioned in our discussion. It is up to you, the mentor, to help your mentee identify and learn the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career. This will help motivate them to improve on their weaknesses and help them realise their strengths to apply in the workplace. Once in full time work, this experience should encouraging your mentee to feel confident to ask for feedback from their boss and make managing up a more natural process.

Speaking up

Encouraging graduates to speak up if they are unsure about a task, or if they think an aspect of the workplace can improve, is something that can really aid them in their career progression in the future. As a mentor, we should be giving our mentees the confidence to speak up and let their manager or relevant person know what is on their mind professionally. This also applies to the relationship between the two of you as well, you want them to tell you if they are not happy with a certain way of learning, or if they want to cover a specific area that you haven’t done so yet. Encouraging them to do this is another form of managing them up into progression and being a better employee and mentee overall!

We learnt so much within this webinar, and there were plenty of fantastic recommendations as to what ‘Managing Up’ is referring to. Next month we’ll cover a new topic!