Posts Tagged ‘Career Development’

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Mentoring: Put in the time to make it work

November 25, 2009

I was reading somewhere that mentor-mentee relationships usually only provide value once they pass the 6 month stage. Three months into my mentor-mentee relationship (with me being the mentee), I have already learned a lot and gotten a lot of value out of our discussions. It has been great to have someone to explore and field ideas with and it has definitely helped me to develop, even in such a brief amount of time.

To ensure we got the most out of the relationship, my mentor asked me to think about what my expectations were and exactly what I wanted to achieve. I wrote up some goals then used them to map out topics to set the tone of what I wanted to cover. After some initial discussion, we set up a regular, fortnightly meeting. We usually let what is going on in either of our roles dictate what we talk about, unless it is a topic one of us needs to prepare for. In our catch ups, I try to ask as many questions as I can. My favourite question is “why?” – simple, to the point and it always guarantees different answers. After each catch up, I spend time writing about what I have learnt – a ‘mentoring diary’ of sorts so I have some notes to refer back to when thinking about our discussions.

Although the primary point of a mentoring relationship is the development of the less experienced person (in this case, me), I would like to think that our relationship is, to an extent, based on reciprocal knowledge sharing, and that we both benefit from the discussions we have. It was great to hear that after one of our catch ups and a question of “What are you doing about it?” from me, my mentor had spent some time thinking about the problem, annoyed that they hadn’t had any examples, then thought up an action and set things in motion to get it resolved. Likewise, I always leave our meetings feeling really inspired and with a head full of ideas that I try to work into actions. I learn a lot.

A few of the things I feel have helped this become valuable are the goals and my ‘mentoring diary’. The diary has helped to capture what I have learnt and helps me prepare before our catch ups. In our first meeting we also agreed to be honest with each other and maintaining confidentiality which helped set the boundaries.

There is huge value in having a mentor and I strongly suggest that if you don’t have one, you ask someone now and really invest time into making it work. If you need some encouragement, there is a great blog post written by Melissa Prusher on Steve Boese’s experiences with mentoring relationships suitably titled “Need a mentor? Just ask!”