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Mentoring – a gift that keeps on giving

Mentor

Over the course of my career I have been very fortunate to have support from some brilliant people. I genuinely would not be where I am today without the input, insight and inspiration from my mentors – and indeed, my mentees. A mentor can be defined as simply as ‘an experienced and trusted advisor’. But for me, a mentor is more than that. They hold the role of critic, coach, challenger, champion and confidant.

I have twice had mentors through formal schemes. Once when I worked in the commercial sector. At that time I was both studying my masters in HR management and seeking ways to progress from HR officer to a more senior position. My mentor helped me identify ways to manage my time (and sanity!) during this busy period, gave me insights into her role as an HR manager, and even read over draft essays for my studies. She didn’t let me off lightly either – she was forthcoming and on point with her feedback. She challenged me.

Mentoring

The second time I had a mentor was through a charity scheme, that placed experienced professionals from commercial organisations with women working in charities. At that time I was moving from a managerial role in a small charity into a more strategic position. I was anxious as I faced the challenges of transitioning whilst in the same team, learning what ‘strategic’ means, and so I needed mentoring for developing my confidence. My mentor was someone who worked globally, and managed a staff team of over 250 people in an organisation of over 45,000 employees. A very different setting! She helped me identify ways to build, nurture, develop and improve relationships as well as challenging my inner-voice which kept crying ‘imposter, imposter’. She made me braver.

And that’s not all. I was so grateful for the support, that I asked what I could do in return. And she simply asked me to pay it forward: find someone who I could mentor, who could benefit from my experiences and expertise. And so I did. I took part in a formal scheme with the university where I had done my Masters. I helped a very ambitious young person at the very start of her career. We explored areas such as career goals, networking opportunities, CV writing, and interview skills. We even role played interviews. I learned so much from this experience – how to coach without advising, how to give useful feedback, and I gained a great deal of confidence from realising these were things I was good at myself.

I have also mentored people informally – ex-colleagues and contacts who are looking to progress in their careers in HR and want someone to turn to other than their manager. I have been delighted to provide this support, and share my experiences, including mistakes I have made and what I have learned from them.

With these experiences in mind, here are my 5 top tips to make your mentoring relationship a success:

  1. Set boundaries: I’m talking about career mentoring. It is not about personal life, counselling or mediation. Therefore it is really important to have a shared agreement about ground rules. Confidentiality is a must, but so is a professional focus.
  2. Clear outcomes: It really helps to establish a goal or outcome from the partnership. Then you know when to end. Otherwise the conversations can turn into cosy chats. Nice, but not necessarily a good use of your time.
  3. Prepare to share: Mentoring is all about a sharing experiences and insights. As a mentor this includes learning from mistakes and thinking about tools that have helped you. As a mentee this is about reflecting on your strengths and development areas.
  4. Review throughout: It is really helpful to review each meeting and together explore what has worked well, and what could be done differently next time. This will help make sure each meeting is effective and you gain momentum.
  5. Do your homework: Mentoring is an investment in your time and that means more than the meetings when you come together. Prepare for each meeting; and assign actions for work between.

And finally, pay it forward. If you have had the benefit of having a mentor, try being a mentor for someone else. It is both rewarding and stretching, and you will learn a great deal.

If you are interested in finding a mentor or being a mentor we can help – get in touch for an initial conversation about how mentoring would help you. Or if you need something more formal we have several experienced coaches available. Call us on 020 7978 1516 or email yvette@managementcentre.co.uk

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in personal effectiveness, change and innovation, and leadership development. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as...

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