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What to look for in a mentor

· mentor,career,personal development,leadership,QandA

Mentor: an experienced and trusted advisor.

Having a mentor can be monumental to your career. I know, I've had a number of mentors throughout my career.

The difference between mentoring and coaching:

Generally a mentor revolves around developing the individuals career and is less formal and structured than coaching. Coaching usually has specific areas that you are working towards. A mentor is usually someone more experienced or senior in the area you want to be mentored.

How do you find a mentor and how do you know they are right for you?

A mentor can be someone in or outside of your workplace. It is about developing you in your career. As long as the person is experienced in the area you want to develop. For example, I mentor a girl who wants to be a leader. She works in the charity sector. I know nothing about her job, but I do know a lot about being a leader. Think about how you want to develop in your role. It could be someone who has been in the job longer than you, they don't necessarily have to be senior. An new architect would find it valuable to be mentored by someone who has been an architect for a while, they don't have to be senior, just more experienced.

Think about someone who you have met who is more senior or experienced that you look up to, or check out some of the mentoring organisations.

Q: How do you know that the mentor is right for you?

A: As long as you feel comfortable with them talking about your development and you think you can learn from them, than they may be a good mentor.

Q: Does a mentor need to be the same gender as me?

A: No. It is about learning and we can learn from anyone. As long as you feel comfortable talking about your development with them.

Q: Do mentor meetings need to be regular?

A: There is no right or wrong to mentoring. It depends on the stage you are in your career and what you need. It could be a relationship that you contact the person whenever you need to or it could be more structured. If starting out, I would probably to agree once a month for a few sessions to see how that feels for you. The agree how you are going to work together going forward.

Q: Does the mentor need to work in my workplace?

A: No. However it depends on what the mentoring is going to be about. If you want to be mentored in your current role, then maybe someone in your work would be good. But the mentor, just needs to be experienced in the area you want to be mentored.

Q: We don't have a formal mentor program at work. What should I do?

A: In your next review or meeting with your line manager, discuss the possibility of having a mentor and why you think a mentor would be valuable. Having someone in mind is always a good idea.

Q: My manager has said that I can have a mentor, but I don't feel comfortable approaching the person as they are quite senior.

A: Ask your manager to email the person on your behalf.

Q: I don't think my manager would support me having a mentor?

A: Then a mentor outside of work in your own time might be the best option. There are a number of mentoring organisations who can match you with someone.

Q: I have a coach, can I have a mentor as well?

A: Yes! Having a coach is generally about solving a specific need. A mentor is someone who you speak to about your career development.

Q: Should we set objectives or goals for our mentoring sessions?

A: I think you should discuss with your mentor at the beginning what you want to get out of mentoring and what your career objective is. However, depending on what you are being mentored on, will depend if you set goals.

Q: It feels like my coach is a mentor.

A: That can be true. Sometimes a coach is a coach/mentor. It depends on the situation.

Q: I feel like my mentoring relationship isn't going anywhere. Can I get a new mentor?

A: Yes. If you aren't getting any value from the conversations, then it is time to seek a new mentor. This is why, having a conversation at the beginning about what you want to get from that mentor is important, because it allows you to know when time is up.

Q: How long can I have one mentor for?

A: It depends on you and the mentor and what they are mentoring you on. It could be years, or months. Generally mentoring is longer than coaching, but as long as you are getting value from it and it doesn't just become a gossip session.

Q: How can a mentor help me?

A: A mentor can guide, advise and help you see opportunities that you may not have necessarily seen for yourself. They are someone who is more experienced, so have usually gone through what you are going through now. They may be someone who can answers questions you have. There is no specific guide to what a mentor is or isn't (maybe there is - worth googling), but think more about how you want to develop in your career.

I had a mentor when I was first became a trainer. She watched me deliver a training session and then gave me feedback or what to change and improve and that formed the basis of our conversations.

I matched a senior manager with someone more inexperienced. She wanted to learn to be more assertive. The senior manager sat in on meetings with her and gave her advice on how to be more assertive.

I work with a woman in a charity who wants to be a leader. We have a session once a month on the phone. I've never met her in person, but I feel I know her struggles because they are similar to what I experienced when I was first in the working world. We talk about how she can handle situations differently, how she can demonstrate that she is a leader in her job and what she can do to raise her visibility. I let her lead each session because this is her time and I am just her support.



Check out our events section. At Make Mondays Marvellous, we often run group mentoring events.

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