Mentoring can be a hugely rewarding experience for all those involved. It's main purpose is to help people explore their ideas, problems and opportunities and can be particularly useful in situation where people feel there is a block to progress, a problem that keeps recurring or an opportunity they cannot work out how to exploit.
The process should be a confidential, learning partnership between two people aimed at building the capacity of the mentee. Mentors, as well as acting as a sounding board and offering impartial feedback, are experienced professionals who are willing and able to help others and who use their own professional experiences to help steer and support the learner (or “mentee”).
Mentoring is of particular value for staff who are developing in new roles or who wish to develop themselves beyond their current role. It can also be beneficial for those in need of some expert insight and help during times of change or challenge.
Below we hear from both sides, the Mentor and the Mentee, about their own experiences of the process.
Gavyn Rollinson (Mentor)
The process began by Daniela Farina asking me for support with her professional registration application form, because I am both a senior staff member in Technical Services and have been through the application process, achieving chartered scientist status.
I was happy to help mentor someone through the process, so I set up some meetings and discussions. The meetings were informal, but had a structured approach focussed on support for applying for registered scientist for Daniela.
As the application process allows time for personal reflection, we were also able to discuss wider issues, and I gave advice about career pathways, drawing on my own experiences as a guide but also building on Daniela’s own career and aspirations.
In total we had around 4 meetings, each lasting about an hour, with further discussions as required.
I was able to schedule the meetings and discussions for time that suited us both (during working hours), so I didn’t find the process a problem from a time viewpoint.
This was a rewarding process for both Daniela and I, which allowed me to help and support Daniela with her application and aspirations, and importantly was an opportunity for me to give something back.
Mentoring enabled me to see personal career and professional development from another staff member’s viewpoint, which gave me a better understanding of issues facing our staff and their development expectations.
Also, I found that helping staff improve themselves instils a sense of feeling valued within the team and promotes a highly skilled environment that in turn helps all staff work in a smoother, more efficient environment.
Lastly, it is an aim of my own Chartered Scientist status to assist others in improving themselves, so mentoring is part of my own career development strategy and allows me to pass on my knowledge and insights in professional development.
Daniela Farina (Mentee)
The success of any mentoring scheme will depend upon two factors: the motivation of the mentee and the wisdom of the mentor. Whilst the first one is not for me to judge, I was extremely fortunate with the second factor.
Thanks to the help I have received from my mentor, I managed to go through a rather complicated process of professional registration without major problems. Gavyn, my mentor, worked as a great facilitator – he allowed me to introspect on what my strengths and weaknesses are, and helped me to use that knowledge in order to compose a successful application form.
We had four one-hour sessions where we talked through every point of the process and made sure that all of them were addressed, matching best cases to required examples. Some of the points within the registration process are impossible to be completed impartially based on my own judgement (indeed it is suggested in the form itself to use external help) so a mentor is key to address them.
OK – you might say – that sounds a bit underwhelming. But my experience of it is far from being underwhelming. Going through my recent career with Gavyn was a fantastic experience and it allowed me to look at my job from a completely different angle. This angle has helped me greatly in the application process for my current job, so using a mentor in the registration for professional qualification is also useful as a stepping stone in your career – that is an important feature of both the mentoring scheme and the registration itself. Furthermore, mentoring does not have to stop when the registration is completed. Gavyn and I have met multiple times since then and I used his advice to help and steer my career in best way possible. For example, I had some meetings with him before my interview. He also helped me with managing my workload - something I know I have problems with – because we have a good mentor-mentee relation, I managed to solve some serious work related issues that might have impacted negatively to the quality of my work otherwise.
In brief, having a mentor is an excellent opportunity, but it requires selecting a mentor you can trust and that can complement your skill set. A mentor, with time, is also your natural champion and it is key in any work environment to find someone willing to support your ideas.