What Protégé Means and How to Become One


Feb 12, 2023
protege meaning

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A protégé is someone with a mentor who helps lead them. This can be a professor, employer, trainer, advisor or anyone with experience who can teach an apprentice. It’s another word for student or learner. If you need expert guidance on something, you might want to consider finding a mentor of your own. With the protégé meaning in mind, here’s everything you should know about finding a mentor and getting the most out of the relationship.

The Mentor-Protégé Dynamic

Not to be confused with a prodigy, which describes a young intellectual or artistic genius, “protégé” comes from the French word for someone who is protected. A mentor-protégé relationship can arise naturally, such as during a lunch break with your boss, or through something like a formal school mentorship program. 

As the protégé, you benefit from one-on-one training. Your mentor benefits by sharpening their leadership skills and passing on their knowledge. Plus, due to the protégé effect — where people teaching a topic to someone else end up learning the material better — your mentor will get a refresher course in whatever they’re teaching you. 

In this trusting relationship, you both get to exchange ideas and gain new perspectives without fear of punishment or harsh discipline. 

How to Find a Mentor

One great way to become a protégé is to look up the career you’d like to pursue — or school you want to attend, a skill you’d like to learn, or a topic you’re curious about — followed by the word “mentorship.” For example, an online search for “zookeeper mentorship” returns several results for formal programs that guide protégés towards careers in animal husbandry.

You can also ask your career advisor if they have a list of mentorships available at your school. These might be mentorships specific to your campus, or as broad as international programs that your school participates in. 

Additionally, you could go directly to someone you’d like to mentor you, then ask them if they’ll take you on as a protégé. Tell them what you’d like to get out of the relationship and why you want a mentor. Some benefits of becoming a protégé might include getting better grades, deciding on a career path, or sharpening your skills in a certain field.

Your Role as a Protégé

As a protégé, you play an active part in making the most of your mentorship. You’ll have a few key areas to focus on, such as:

1. Deciding What You Want

Being a protégé means thinking about where you see yourself in the future. What kind of career do you want? Do you plan on attending college? Much like a counselor, your mentor’s role is to guide you, but not sway you one way or another. You should take their advice into account while still making your own decisions. 

2. Asking Questions

If your mentor has the job you’d like to do someday, ask them a few questions about how they got there. Did they have to gain any hands-on experience first? Do they have connections in the industry that they could pass on to you? They might have pointers on how to build your resume, where to apply, or where to get volunteer experience. Ask them. 

3. Learning New Skills

Maybe you’re participating in a program that includes formal training, like a blacksmith apprenticeship or sports mentorship. Or, perhaps you’re simply asking for general guidance from a professor in regard to a certain topic, like biology or algebra. 

Either way, make it a point to learn something new from your mentor. That’s one of your primary roles as a protégé. Practice your listening skills and be open to techniques you may not have considered before. 

And, who knows? You may even end up teaching your mentor something, since there’s likely a generation gap between you. If you have different viewpoints or backgrounds, you’ll learn even more from each other. 

Gain Valuable Experience By Embodying the Protégé Meaning

Becoming a protégé, meaning that you find a leader to guide you through your academic or career development, can be a very valuable tool for growth. Remember to keep an open mind, ask for advice, and make it clear what your goals are to get the most out of a mentorship. 

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