What is mentoring?

The term ‘ mentoring’ is interpreted in different ways, and is often used interchangeably with ‘coaching’. Both can be about sharing particular areas of expertise and knowledge that the mentee needs; as well as about developing the individual whether or not they work in the same field. The two ‘processes’ can take place in the same session. For simplicity’s sake, we use here the term ‘mentoring’ to cover all the processes involved in supporting the individual.

Mentoring is a system of semi-structured guidance whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills, and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers. Mentors need to be readily accessible and prepared to offer help as the need arises – within agreed bounds.

Mentors very often have their own mentors, and in turn, their mentees might wish to ‘put something back’ and become mentors themselves – it’s a chain for ‘passing on’ good practice so that the benefits can be widely spread. Mentoring can be a short-term arrangement until the original reason for the partnership is fulfilled (or ceases), or it can last many years.

Mentoring is more than ‘giving advice’, or passing on what your experience was in a particular area or situation. It’s about motivating and empowering the other person to identify their own issues and goals, and helping them to find ways of resolving or reaching them – not by doing it for them, or expecting them to ‘do it the way I did it’, but by understanding and respecting different ways of working.

Mentoring is not counseling or therapy – through the mentor may help the mentee to access more specialized avenues of help if it becomes apparent that this would be the best way forward.

What’s in it for you?

As mentee

  • Being able to change/achieve your goals more quickly and effectively than working alone
  • Building a network of expertise to draw on can benefit both yourself and others

As mentor

  • Mentoring is voluntary but extremely rewarding and can benefit your own skills development and career progression
  • You need to be the sort of person who wants others to succeed and have or can develop the skills needed to support them

Why have a mentor?

Research has proven the value of mentoring for improving your work experience, and this is recognized by having a University mentoring policy for newly appointed staff.

Mentors can:

  • Act as an impartial sounding board
  • Create valuable space and time for you to ‘stand back’ and review where you are now, where you want to get to, and how best to get there
  • Contribute viewpoints, advice, and information from their own knowledge, experience, and expertise
  • Assist you to achieve changes and goals to enhance your professional and personal life