Mentoring

by Helen Moulsley

Common questions

  1. What is mentoring?
  2. Why should I become a mentor?
  3. What do I need to be a good mentor?
  4. Why should I find myself a mentor?
  5. How do I get the most out of being mentored?

 

1. What is mentoring?

Mentoring is where one person (the mentor) works with someone usually less experienced (the mentee), to transfer knowledge and experience which has been accrued by the mentor, usually over many years. The mentee therefore benefits from the experience of the ‘wise old bird’.

The content of the mentoring will often be about passing on professional expertise, and may be job or profession specific. Where mentoring can really pay dividends is where the mentor teaches the mentee ‘how things are done around here’ – in other words, the organisation’s formal and informal culture.

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2. Why should I become a mentor?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, mentoring may be for you:

  • Do you find it satisfying developing individuals for the future?
  • Do you want to share your years of experience with others?
  • Do you feel that you have more to offer than you are currently contributing to the organisation?
  • Do you want to realise the potential of new joiners and speed their development?
  • Do you have strong listening skills?
  • Are you self aware?

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3. What do I need to be a good mentor?

  • You will have a desire to grow individuals to the benefit of themselves and the organisation.
  • You will have professional expertise and an understanding of how to operate within the organisation; you know how to get things done, and who to work with and how.
  • You will have the skills to enable the mentee to work out their own solutions, with you in coaching and supporting – not in telling – mode.
  • Listening skills and the ability to give feedback in a constructive way are very important.

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4. Why should I find myself a mentor?

Think of mentoring in the context of your own personal and career development. The mentor can help you work through how to achieve your career goals or further develop your professional expertise.

A mentor, by virtue of their years of experience, will be able to help you steer your way through the organisation, giving you insights into formal processes, systems and structures. Perhaps more importantly, they will help you understand some of the more informal ways of getting things done, and some of the unwritten and un-stated ways of working.

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5. How do I get the most out of being mentored?

  • Be clear as to what you want to achieve through the mentoring relationship. You need to have some idea of this before your first meeting with your mentor, so that you can discuss this with them at the first meeting.
  • Own the mentoring relationship: be proactive and take the lead.
  • Have reasonable and realistic expectations of your mentor. They are only human after all.
  • Be open to feedback. This requires maturity and a willingness to hear things which may be uncomfortable to you.
  • Work on and use your Listening Skills.

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