What is mentoring?
A mentor generally provides confidential support, advice and feedback to an individual (the ‘mentee’) to help them develop professionally. It is a key means of accessing knowledge and experience to help navigate your career path.
I have had the opportunity to be both a mentor and a mentee and have gained a great deal from both experiences. Like anything, you get out what you put in, so you need to do your research, be clear on what you want to achieve and be flexible. Here are some ideas get the most from mentoring:
- Research and preparation is everything. Make sure you take time to identify individuals who have the skills, experience or qualities that are important to you. There may be several individuals that you want to reach out to – you don’t have to limit to just one person. Mentors could be in your current organisation, and if you are already working, you should check if any mentoring programmes are available. Also make use of college and industry network events as a means to build a network of potential mentors.
Be clear on what you want
"Always be clear on the reasons why you want a particular individual to be your mentor and plan what you want to get out of it. Have a goal and know what you want to focus on with your mentor and be able to articulate what you want to learn from them."
Be flexible on arrangements and ways of communicating
- When you ask someone to be your mentor, be mindful of the fact that people are extremely busy. Not everyone will have time to invest in a mentoring relationship, so don’t be discouraged if this happens, you could ask for a suggestion for an alternative. Also, think about using different means of communication. In person is not the only way, and using methods like Skype sessions or FaceTime will provide more flexibility, allowing you to have a wider range of mentors from around the world.
- Agree the length and frequency of the sessions and do not expect mentoring to carry on indefinitely. The most productive mentoring relationships last around 6-12 months and you should agree a schedule at the outset. You will have a number of mentors throughout your career and these will vary in duration and frequency.
Your mentor is a sounding board
- Don’t expect a mentor to provide all the answers! Use the sessions to discuss challenges and potential solutions but be prepared to come to your own conclusions with the help and support of your mentor.
Review and adapt
- Create checkpoints throughout the mentoring relationship to review what you have achieved and set new goals as they arise.
Ending a mentoring relationship
- Although your mentor may become part of your network in the future and you would have built a valuable relationship, there will be a time when the mentoring sessions will come to an end. Set time to review what you have achieved together when a mentoring relationship has reached its conclusion.
Everyone benefits from mentoring
- It is worth remembering that it is not only people at the outset of their career who benefit from mentoring. At any stage of your career, having someone you can go to for advice and guidance is essential.
Consider reverse mentoring
- “Reverse mentoring” can be a very rewarding and informative experience. This is where a person who is at an earlier stage in their career brings a new perspective and invaluable feedback to a more experienced mentee.
Mentoring enables you to continually learn and grow throughout your career, and establishing different mentoring relationships over time helps you create a powerful network. Following these steps will help ensure you get the most out of the experience. Why not make a plan today to embark on your mentoring journey?