Mentoring topics can come easily particularly at the start of a mentoring partnership, they can be identified by completing a strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats exercise (SWOT - see separate document), or by discussing challenges, problems or goals with your mentor.
You may have something you want to discuss, an idea to explore or perhaps you require feedback, on your CV for example. However, if it feels like you are running out of things to talk about in your mentoring partnership rather than cutting the partnership short, consider how else you can use mentoring and make the best of the opportunity.
Below you will find some prompts to help identify suitable mentoring topics and to make the best of the current mentoring opportunity, rather than giving up.
Mentoring is a learning and development activity that involves having focused conversations about topics chosen by you, the mentee. The topics – in the form of specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals - set the agenda for the conversations. The topics could be about:
- a challenge to overcome
- a problem to solve
- a goal to achieve or explore
- an idea you want to discuss
Topics for mentees
Topics you discuss need to be ones that are real to you, and that you are genuinely interested in. Below are some suggested topics you could use as a starting point for the meetings with your mentor:
Thinking long term
If you have been focusing on short term goals, try focusing on longer term goals and aspirations, or vice versa
Preparing for the future
Discuss where the industry is going for example as technology develops – you may want to do a bit of research first. What skills will be needed in the future? How can you prepare for the future?
Looking beyond the screen industry
Discuss what the industry could learn from other unrelated industries e.g. sport, finance, engineering, education, conservation and how you could put some of that learning into practice
Use mentoring to practice an activity that you want to improve, and then get feedback from the mentor, for example: pitching; doing a presentation; job interviews; networking; giving or receiving feedback; having a difficult conversation with a colleague
Complete a SWOT exercise and consider what you need to develop for your next step or your longer term goal. What can you do to improve your awareness, understanding and knowledge?
Based on your achievements and successes, explore with your mentor: how you approached it; what skills and qualities you used to make it a success; what you learned by doing it; how you over-came any challenges. Then consider how you can use the learning in the future.
Watch a ScreenSkills masterclass that relates to your part of the screen industry, and discuss it together. What did you learn? What surprised you? What did you find challenging? What more do you want to know – and how could you find out? How does this relate to you and your development?
Have a book-club-type activity but focusing on something from the screen industry – film, TV, animation, game, VFX. Discuss and critique an aspect (a scene; a character; the lighting; costume; CGI; set etc). What stood out? What can you learn from it? If you had been working on it, what would you have done differently? What skills would you have needed to be able to work successfully on it? What may have been a challenge and how might you have over come it?
Working with a blank canvas
Focus on your own craft or area of expertise and think of a new project or piece of work that would stretch you, how might you approach it? What existing skills and qualities would you bring? What may challenge you? What might you need to learn or improve? What could you learn from the way others dealt with that type of project or piece of work?
Dealing with difficult situations
If you feel you are in a difficult situation, discuss with your mentor what you are learning by going through this experience; find out what others have done in the past and what you can learn from their experiences; think about the smallest, tiniest thing you could do that may improve the situation; where could you seek support; consider what will you tell people about what you did during this time; think about what this time is teaching you about yourself.
Consider situations where you do and don’t feel confident; spot patterns and themes (good and bad); think about the qualities you bring or the actions you do, to make the situations good, and be proud of these; think about what you can learn from the good examples that may help you improve the bad examples;
Do something creative, film a piece of your work on your mobile or other device, or make a short film/animation etc. Share the finished piece of work with your mentor. What did/didn’t work? What did you enjoy/struggle with? What did you learn? What could you do to improve it? How would it look in a different medium/platform? Discuss how you can use your learning in the future.
Get creative together
Do something small and practical with your mentor during a mentoring meeting that is related to your craft or area of expertise. Discuss how you worked together and what you learned.
Discuss areas of craft and expertise that are needed to make a finished product (film, animation etc). What do you know about other departments and crafts beyond your own? How does your department or craft interact with others? What do you need from others to do your job well and what do others need from you? Complete a short piece of work which enables you to gain insight in to other roles and become more aware of the overall process. Discuss learnings with your mentor.
Updating old strengths
identify strengths you are not using; discuss with your mentor ways you could use these in your current situation; discuss with your mentor how can they be refreshed, updated, re-purposed in relation to your next step or longer term goals, or in response to how the industry or technology is changing.
In whatever ways you use mentoring, reflect on what you have learned, developed, and gained in awareness and understanding, and remember to keep your CV, website, showreel or portfolio up to date.