I have had experience of both mentoring and being mentored, and I would heartily recommend both, whatever stage you are at in your career. But what is mentoring or being mentored all about?
- Last year I was introduced to a senior HR Director and we had a few meetings over coffee before work to talk about career planning. These meetings turned into a big wake-up call for me to think more about my future, and my attempts to formulate a 5-year career plan turned into 5-year life planning, much to my and my husband’s bewilderment.
- From the other end of the mentoring relationship I was introduced to someone wanting to break into the HR profession. This has resulted in lots of discussions in cafes and pubs and emails to discuss getting her foot in the door, CV writing, interview preparation etc. These discussions have ended up in my mentee recently securing a job offer at a HR consultancy and even though I can in no way take credit for her achievement, I somehow feel proud that I was able to help in some way.
If you think you don’t have enough experience or seniority to mentor another, think again. Volunteer and it will both bring benefits to your mentee, and boost your own confidence in your professional abilities. And you get a great feeling when you can help someone develop. Mentoring is not so much about offering opinions, as sharing your experience and the inside track on a certain career path. So you don’t need to be an expert by any means. To someone outside your field of work, any insight you can offer could potentially be very useful.
As a mentor you will be committing to helping another navigating the 21st century career ‘rockface‘ – providing a helping hand, a guide, as well as another pair of eyes and ears on their job-hunting strategy or work dilemmas.
How to get a mentor?
Do you want an internal mentor from your own company or someone external to your organisation who can give you a fresh perspective? Are you looking for a promotion or growth within your current organisation, a complete change of industry, or an entry point into a profession? That first job after qualifying or university?
Look for someone whose work you admire or a professional network offering a mentoring scheme. Both of my mentoring experiences mentioned above came my way via introductions from networks and professional bodies of which I am a member. And many professional organisations and networks are happy to accept student members or applications from those trying to get into that profession.
How long should it go on for?
Mentoring is different from coaching, which is much more focused on getting you from a defined place (where you are now) to a goal (where you want to be). Mentoring can be short-term (a brief conversation over a coffee) or long-term (your mentor advises you throughout many stages in your career). Decide what you want to get out of it and see where it can take you. Remember that it should be non-obligatory, and you never know your mentor could put you in touch with others who can help you in different areas of your career. They could even turn out eventually to be someone you’d call a friend.