Getting the most out of mentoring
Having a role model to support, advise and guide you, can help you aim high and achieve your full potential.
Why it's good to have a mentor
A mentor is a trusted person with experience who can:
- help you develop your skills and knowledge
- share their own career story and introduce you to others to build your network
- guide you towards opportunities to start or move up in your career
- support you to set goals and take action
- help you to look at challenges in a new way
- signpost you to advice and further help if you need it
Having a mentor is useful at any stage of your career.
How to get a mentor
You may be able to sign up for a formal mentoring scheme at your school, college, training centre or workplace. If you are unemployed your Jobcentre may have advice on local schemes.
You can find out more about mentoring from talking to:
- a careers leader, personal tutor or training provider
- a careers adviser in school, college, university or from the National Career Service
- a line manager or supervisor
- the human resources department at work
There are also mentoring schemes run by charities and commercial organisations. Some are for specific groups like people with a disability or people from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Some examples include:
- The Prince's Trust - Mosaic scheme, usually organised in schools
- The Windsor Fellowship - has several schemes for young people and graduates from diverse communities
- UpRising - offer mentoring for young people in 5 areas of England
- City Disabilities - offer support to students and professionals with a disability, working or aiming to work in London
Some mentor schemes are to encourage people from under-represented groups to enter a particular career or sector. For example:
- Black Solicitors Network - Creating Pathways scheme for new and aspiring solicitors
- Screen Skills - mentoring for the film and creative industries
- The Women's Engineering Society (WES) - mentoring service for early career women engineers
- Code First Girls – support for women entering the IT industry
You can search online or ask a careers adviser for information on other schemes available in your area of work or to meet your particular circumstances.
Create your own mentoring opportunity
If you’re at work you could ask someone in your organisation to be your mentor. Think about the type of person you want to help you.
Look for someone who has the kind of skills you would like to gain or who is in a role you aspire to be in. Having someone who is 2 or 3 steps ahead of where you are now in your career, can be a good strategy.
How to prepare for mentoring
Think about your long and short-term goals and what you want to gain from the mentoring experience.
You’ll be expected to take the lead in how the sessions are used. You’ll also need to agree with you mentor on:
- the amount of time you can both commit to meeting
- how you will use your time together
- when and how you will meet-face to face or online
You could create an action plan to help set your goals. You can take this along to your first session to prompt your discussion.
What to expect from mentoring
At the start of a mentoring opportunity, you will have an initial meeting to:
- introduce yourself to each other
- share your expectations
- set the rules for your mentoring relationship
Your mentoring sessions might be face to face or online. You may both need to sign up to a mentoring agreement.
Your mentor should be able to show that they have been approved to work with you. If you are a young person or vulnerable adult, this means your mentor should have been security checked.
Top tips to get the most out of mentoring
To help you get started on mentoring, you should:
- plan a rough outline of what you want to cover before each session and prepare some questions
- be responsible for your own development - your mentor is there just to advise, you are there to do the work
- be open, honest and willing to trust your mentor’s advice
- expect to be challenged and pushed out of your comfort zone – this is how you develop skills
- expect to make some mistakes - you will learn from them
- remember your mentor is volunteering their time so never waste it
- try to see things from a new perspective – your mentor may be of a different gender or culture, so be respectful of difference
- be open to feedback and willing to talk about it, if you disagree – mentors are there to learn from you too