What Mentoring Means To Me
15th August 2018
Mentoring is helping someone to develop in their career or personal life - be that a new job, promotion, gain experience in another area… the list goes on.
Mentors come in many different guises. Some are professional mentors and you pay for the service, some do it voluntarily (like myself), some are allocated within a company to help new starts or leadership development, some are your line manager and some are people you already know from a completely different walk of life.
For the purpose of this article I wanted to give you an insight to what having a mentor can do for you, what attributes to look for in a mentor, how to pick one who is right for you and what you can expect to achieve.
What To Look For In A Mentor
Look for someone who is knowledgeable in your particular area of interest, is supportive but can challenge you and can provide guidance. Their past experience, successes and failures are great learning (guiding!) curves for you. Look for someone who can listen carefully and really hear what you are saying.
Choose someone you are comfortable with and with whom you can confide. This is important as your time together will be precious and the rapport between you should develop throughout your relationship. Now, this is a two-way street and a good mentor will have to feel the same. If you don't feel comfortable then it's best not to continue and look for someone else. Likewise, don't be too discouraged if, after your first meeting, the mentor decides not to continue with you – this is a good thing in the long run, and will save you both wasting time. Just have another look and start again – the perfect mentor will be out there for you!
What You Can Expect To Get Out Of Being Mentored
You will gain valuable insight and wisdom, your mentor will work to help you look at things from a different perspective. Under their guidance you should start to see some subtle differences, but don't expect them to completely change your world. In fact, sometimes it's only looking back that you realise how helpful the process has been. Think of your first job and some of the people there, your boss and colleagues – I bet if you look back on it you can identify several mentors as you recognise how you learned from their behaviour and guidance.
Another benefit is that before your mentor has reached where they have, they will likely have built up a network that they would happily introduce you to. This is sometimes as valuable as any advice they will give you!
Working with a mentor should help to build your confidence, as well as further your business and/or career. They will empower you and be your greatest champion and sounding board.
Some examples of what my mentees got out of our sessions
The guidance and teaching during my mentoring sessions often draws on my strengths in sales and business development and the examples below helped my mentees overcome real blocks in their development.
Some of these will sound basic to experienced people but this is the reason to enter into a mentoring programme – to help someone who has asked for help, no matter how simple it may appear to you.
LinkedIn – greater awareness of themselves and their business with immediate returns which generated business.
Networking – confidence to initiate and maintain authentic conversations, and effectively follow-up to build relationships.
Selling – how best to tackle each potential sale, different selling methods, confidence and encouragement. One in particular sent me a message a couple of days after our session to say they had sold three packages of something that they had been failing at before.
Bonus: Being A Mentor
I myself have mentored people both by being a colleague with more experience, a direct line manager and, latterly, at a mentor with a local group – Aberdeen Young Professionals (AYP). Although this article is aimed mainly for people who are looking for a mentor, I feel it would be remiss of me not to talk about the benefits of being a mentor. Not only is there the immense feeling of satisfaction from helping someone, but you might have the opportunity to learn a thing or two yourself. I know in the past year that I have been a mentor I have learnt loads and I am beyond grateful to the people I was mentoring. Each of them came to me for a specific reason but they were actually all from very different industries/jobs and to this end it was as much an invaluable development process for me as I hope it was for them.
What I Learnt
I learnt that my mentoring style has to be adapted for each individual, and I learned how to do it. Some worked better when given tasks, some were fairly task oriented themselves and were able to prompt me before I could even suggest anything. I used to be a manager with people reporting to me, but for the last 10 years or so I have been responsible for myself only. If I were to go back to managing people again I think I would do it very differently.
I've had a few people ask me about what it takes to become a mentor, and from my point of view it's a very simple answer – the drive to want to help others develop, more quickly than you did, and with fewer mistakes. When I was first approached about it I wasn't sure what I had to offer. I had never been a business owner and I wasn't technically trained in any discipline. I used to think these were requirements. But actually, what I didn't appreciate about myself was that I had come so far in my career and how I got here, some of my methods, lessons learned etc... were all things that I could pass on. So, I signed up and haven't looked back!
I would encourage anyone who either wants to be a mentor or be mentored to look around for local mentor/mentoring opportunities – and if you can't find one then why not reach out to someone and ask? You won't look back – honest!