How to get the most out of mentoring

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Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 27/09/2022

The concept of mentoring dates back as early as Ancient Greece, with the word’s origin coming from Mentor, son of Alcimus in Homer’s Odyssey.

Why is that important to know? Well, this outlined the foundations of mentorship – as told in the story, the goddess Athena assumes Mentor’s identity to guide young Telemachus during a time of difficulty on the quest to gain knowledge of his father, Odysseus.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and it is still widely practised through these foundations set back in Ancient Greece – with 93% of SMEs acknowledging that mentoring can help them to succeed, according to Sage.

Whether personally or professionally, young people seek the advice of senior and more seasoned individuals to guide them through decisions, and learn from their experiences.

Yet we have seen mentorship develop significantly. For example, it is not necessarily restricted by age, with many people throughout their careers seeking guidance and advice despite their position or circumstance.

So we know that mentoring fundamentally helps people overcome obstacles in their careers and personal lives through the advice and guidance of others, but how does one make the most of the relationship in today’s world?

Prepare and plan a mentoring relationship

Spend some time reflecting on what you want to achieve from a mentoring relationship. It is important to set goals so your time with a mentor is focused and beneficial.

It will also mean you can keep track of your progress and give some structure to your sessions.

It’s a good idea to prepare questions that link to your goals for each of your meetings with a mentor. If you’re struggling for ideas, check out this Forbes article on 40 questions to ask a mentor.

Both the mentee and the mentor are likely to be busy people, so it is important to maximise time in the meetings.

Top tip: A mentoring log document is a great way to keep track of your progress with a mentor.

Be responsible for your own development

Your mentor is a guide, but you are there to do the work.

It is important not to rely on your mentor too heavily. They can’t do the work for you to achieve what you want to achieve.

Be open and honest

Trust your mentor – they have volunteered to help you.

The mentor is the expert but can’t help you if they don’t know the whole picture.

If you need to uphold confidentiality regarding a work matter, or if you don’t feel comfortable in your early meetings, think about how your problem fits into a generic theme and make this the focus of the meeting.

Especially online, establishing trust can be difficult. This is why it can be good to go through mentoring programmes run by organisations like Generation Next or by universities, as you have the peace of mind that the mentors have actively signed up to help people like yourself.

Expect a challenge

Your mentor is there to challenge your current thinking and working patterns – this is what they are there to do so you can undertake a fundamental change. Be open to being pushed out of your comfort zone, when necessary, as that is how you learn.

Failure could also be a part of the process – not everything you will work through with your mentor will work – but it is a natural part of life. Discuss it with your mentor as this will be the best way to learn.

Top tip: There is a TEDTalk from 2016 by leadership coach Patrick Boland that describes how mentoring can help you overcome failure, and it is worth a watch before you start a mentoring agreement.

Time is valuable

Your mentor will be volunteering to help you, so make sure you make the most of their time. Come prepared to sessions and notify them with plenty of notice if you can’t make a session.

Vice-versa, if you’re not getting a good vibe from your mentor, have an honest conversation with them or contact the programme’s facilitator.

Top tip: If both yourself and your mentor have busy schedules, online meetings may be preferable as it will cut out travel times.

Always be respectful

Your mentor’s gender, nationality or cultural background may vary to yours, so be respectful of difference. Again, they have signed on to help you so be appreciative of their time.

Don’t be afraid to debate feedback

Be open to feedback and willing to talk about it, if you disagree – mentors are there to learn from you too.

Especially in the early years of your career, surrounding yourself with people who have alternative viewpoints to you is an asset, as it has the possibility to open your eyes to new ways of thinking.

Something unexpected could come from debating with your mentor and you could solve a problem you didn’t realise you had.

Finding a mentor through Generation Next

By becoming a member of Generation Next, you can access our mentoring scheme.

The service gives you the opportunity to connect with leading business professionals from across the East Midlands.

The members can contact a potential mentor through an access-only portal. They can then set the terms of the arrangement with the mentor themselves following an initial meeting with the Generation Next team.

Members gain the skills and knowledge needed to progress in business by learning from the advice given by their mentor, all while building their professional network through the Generation Next events and socials.

With the right support, there’s no knowing what can be achieved. For more information on how Generation Next can help you to expand your network, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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