This short guide gives an overview of mentoring and your responsibilities to make sure you give and get the best from the partnership for yourself and your mentee.
You can download an in-depth version of this guidance if you prefer.
What is a mentor?
As a mentor you will be someone who has experience and is willing to share that with your mentee by offering advice, support, challenge, feedback and encouragement. You can help your mentee explore how to make the most of their career opportunities, solve problems, overcome challenges and achieve their goals.
- Help boost your mentee’s confidence and increase their self-awareness
- Give your mentee clarity and an opportunity to focus on their goals, problems, challenges and discuss their career development
- Provide a confidential, safe space for your mentee to reflect, explore, discuss, share ideas and learn
- Offer you as the mentor the opportunity to share your perspective, experiences and offer advice to the mentee
How mentors benefit by taking part in mentoring:
Whilst mentoring focuses on your mentee, there are lots of benefits for you too, these include:
- Developing your leadership, coaching, mentoring and communication skills
- Develop your skills and confidence in asking for, giving, receiving and actioning feedback
- Increasing your network
- Developing your talent spotting skills
- Using and developing your talent spotting skills
- An opportunity to practice and use your skills in having development, career and appraisal conversations with your own teams
- To learn from the ideas and experiences of someone who may be from a different generation, background or have different life experiences
- Seeing things from another perspective
- An opportunity to ‘give back’ It is good for your CV
- Reflecting on your own skills and achievements as well as your own development needs
What a great mentor does
As a mentor, you share your expertise, knowledge, insights and ideas with your mentee to help them explore and take steps towards achieving their mentoring goals. You can encourage and support your mentee to think for themselves. As a mentor you are not expected to have all the answers or achieve your mentee’s goals for them.
As a mentor you will:
- Provide a professional, industry and non-judgemental perspective
- Actively listen to the things that your mentee wants to achieve or that are causing problems or the challenges they are facing
- Act as a confidential sounding board for ideas
- Sharing your own experiences and ideas, giving unbiased advice, support, feedback and challenge
- Facilitate decision making by helping your mentee to generate ideas and actions of their own
Mentoring programmes can vary, and it is important to find out what to expect and what is expected of you. You should find out:
- How much guidance and training is given to mentors and mentees
- The duration of the programme as this can range from a few weeks to a year or more
- How much of the mentoring partnership is driven by you and your mentee, or whether there are structures, processes and deadlines in place such as recording mentoring activity, outcomes, and evaluation
- The overall purpose of the programme
- How the programme is managed and how the matching of mentors and mentees is achieved
- Where to go and who to contact if you have any queries or problems during the mentoring partnership
Where to meet
If you are going to meet your mentee in person, meetings should take place in a suitable environment, in an office or coffee shop, somewhere both parties feel comfortable and never in someone’s home. Meetings can also take place on the phone, via video calls or apps.
Setting the agenda
It is your mentee who is responsible for organising the partnership by being proactive and liaising with you to arrange the date, time of the meetings and whether each one will be in person or virtually. Your mentee sets the agenda and does the homework.
At the first meeting you will spend some time building rapport, getting to know each other and talking about how you will manage the partnership together. This should include sharing contact details; talking about and agreeing confidentiality and boundaries; discussing what mentoring is and is not; duration, frequency of meetings and length of partnership; your mentee’s achievements, challenges and career and personal development goals and identifying the topics and goals for mentoring which should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Discuss that mentoring does not involve you giving the mentee a job, commissioning their ideas/work, giving them a BAFTA or an Oscar, or training them in a craft or skill.
Your mentee’s goals
Mentoring meetings focus on what your mentee wants to achieve, explore, develop, solve, overcome or change. As the mentor, you help them identify what to specifically focus on in the meetings. Mentoring needs a clear focus or the meetings can lapse into just a series of nice conversations which don’t get anywhere. Use your listening and questioning skills, to help your mentee explore the situation and what they can do to achieve their goal. It is good to get your mentee to think for themselves and generate ideas before sharing your ideas/advice/ expertise as this helps them to develop problem solving skills, confidence and creativity. Finally, from the list of ideas you have both come up with, you can help your mentee to identify one or two actions they commit to do which will help them make some first steps towards their goal.
Your mentee’s progress
At the beginning of each of the following meetings you can review and discuss what the mentee has achieved since the previous meeting and what they have learned from their actions before focusing on their current goal or topic.
Review how it is going
It is good practice to regularly review the partnership, and to keep it on track by talking through any challenges and agree how to move forwards. Don’t let the partnership just fizzle out. If you feel something is not working well, discuss this with your mentee. You could use the following questions to ask each other and identify what either or both of you can do to make mentoring a success:
- What is working well?
- What could you or I do differently, do more or less of, to improve the partnership?
If it still doesn’t work, discuss next steps and if necessary, agree to end the partnership early.
Ending the partnership
The partnership may end when your mentee has achieved their goals, overcome their challenges, or when the duration of the programme has been reached. At the final meeting spend some time discussing the overall outcomes and the progress made; celebrate any successes; identify what you both learned; and any next steps for each of you in terms of your ongoing development. You may decide to continue to stay in touch in a less formal way.