While in my previous job I started what can be seen as an informal mentoring relationship with some junior colleagues. Basically, they asked me for career advice (skills needed, how to acquire them, recruitment, etc.), which I was able to provide. These were people from the same company I worked for, however, we never worked together. I can't assess their skills or personalities. There was no conflict of interest involved as these weren't permanent employees.

Now I work in a more senior position and among others, I'm responsible for recruiting people for my team.

Some of my previous mentees know that and contact me asking for tipps on job search and to meet up - and hinting that they are job searching.

My goal is to let them know that I'm not interested in giving this type of advice anymore or in meeting up.


  • Whereas I wish them all the best, we have never worked with each other. I can't vouch for their personality or work morals, so I couldn't recommend them for my company. I'm quite sure their skills aren't up to what I expect for my team either, simply because the standards of my current company are much higher than the previous one and I'm 99.9% sure, they don't have them at this point.

  • I helped them the best I could, but don't have time for more mentoring.

This is a small industry and I don't want to burn bridges.

  • You shouldn’t assume they lack the skills. If you are responsible for recruiting for your new team, interview and test them if they meet the requirements. Maybe they are leaving the old company because they’ve outgrown it. Feb 9, 2019 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


Not meeting up is easy - you just say something similar to:

I'm really happy I've been able to meet up with you and offer advice in the past, but I'm afraid my schedule just doesn't realistically allow for that in this new role. I certainly wish you all the best in your search though, and hope our paths cross again in the future!

Any reasonable person will understand that you're not going to always be available to meet up with them to give free advice, and anyone who holds a grudge over that isn't going to be a contact worth having.

Shutting down a request for advice over email in a similar way is certainly possible, and again most reasonable people would understand.

However, if you want a softer approach, you could spend a while finding some good resources on job-hunting specific to your industry (there's plenty out there online for most industries in my experience). You can then create a "canned response" saying that you no longer have the time to offer free, tailored advice, but you've found (x great resource online) and you'd recommend giving that a thorough read.

At least in that last case, you've sent them off with some resources that are helpful while still putting your point across.

  • 1
    Indeed. I would just add, when you are trying to make it perfectly clear that a "relationship" is over. It is really best to make it absolutely, totally, perfectly clear. (Just as with human romantic relationships!) It is very important not to "dribble on" and give any false hope, whatsoever. Hence, I would recommend after the first "clear goodbye" it's best to simply not respond.
    – Fattie
    Feb 9, 2019 at 12:26

I'm in the same position although your mentoring seems to be limited to career advice rather than problem solving. I find the best way is just to respond when it's something simple that doesn't commit me to anything and pretty much ignore anything else. They soon get the message. Of course if they or anyone for that matter is in dire straits I would make a bit more effort.

This turns you from a 'mentor' to the 'nice old guru guy', hard to get hold of, always busy, can't be bothered with crap, but still the guy who's got your back if the server room is on fire.

Don't get sucked into a dialogue about it, you don't owe them anything.

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