Although I do have a formal mentor, now I actually think about it my relationships with a number of senior colleagues over the years have definitely fitted the mentoring model too, and I’ve really benefitted from their support and enthusiasm for my career development. I’m not sure it altogether matters whether you’ve set up an official mentoring relationship or not – the most important thing is to have access to the right kind of support when you need it (though I appreciate that may well be easier said than done).
Harking back a few weeks, networking activities are a good opportunity to meet people who might turn out to be mentors, particularly if for whatever reason there’s no one available/appropriate on your immediate horizon. I’ve certainly developed a good peer-to-peer network, and can think of several people I could ask to mentor me in specific areas if I so wished. Now I’m a bit older and more experienced I’m also doing my best to offer support where I can give it – not as far as mentoring anyone (don’t think I’m quite experienced enough for that yet!) but when I can help informally I’m more than happy to do so, and would certainly like to be a mentor at some point in the future.
Last year I successfully applied to take part in a kind of management training programme at my workplace. This has been fantastic for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most challenging things at the outset was that I was assigned a mentor. I found this quite difficult for a number of reasons – I didn’t really understand what the mentoring thing involved, I wasn’t sure why I’d been given that particular person, and I had no idea what I needed to do to make the whole thing work. A year on, I’m still not sure I support the idea of assigning a mentor to someone, though I do now appreciate why they were chosen and I have certainly gained a lot by being mentored by them. I still think I could be making better use of them, and will be reading through the resource links from the Thing 11 post with interest.
One quick piece of advice, when my mentor and I had our first meeting we laid down a few ground-rules – absolute confidentiality, regular meetings, advance notice of cancellations/amendments, how long the relationship would go on for, that sort of thing, and I found it useful to think about it all in such a practical way. This is effectively a business arrangement so setting out the terms of reference at the start meant that we both knew what was expected of us, although that’s not to say things can’t change, by mutual agreement, if necessary.
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