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Personal and Professional Development

 

What's involved?

A mentor is someone who acts as a friend to a new colleague settling in. The relationship is based on informal contact between the mentor and the new colleague. The most useful role of the mentor is to discuss with the new person the aspects of the organisation that don't get into official or formal descriptions: the style and culture of the place, the conventions and unwritten rules, why certain people do particular things in unexpected ways, how to get things done without huge formal efforts and so on.

In this context the role of the mentor can only be a voluntary one, because it has to be confidential to be useful. Therefore the mentor cannot be in a managerial role in relation to the person mentored. The mentor's role is one aspect of friendliness, but done a bit more systematically.

It is sensible to agree explicitly how the mentoring will proceed by setting up a contract.

Some tips

  • When you meet, ask the new person what's going well, then what isn't going well or hasn't yet started or isn't yet clear.
  • Follow where the answers lead.
  • Be friendly.
  • Answer direct questions.
  • Give the sort of information that is likely to be useful, but avoid overloading or lecturing.
  • Give advice if asked.

Why be a mentor?

  • Mentoring helps and supports the new person. She/he will appreciate it.
  • It contributes to the smooth running of the organisation.
  • If nobody does it, the organisation is not being as friendly to new people as it might be.
  • If you were supported by a mentor or by friends or others when you were new, this is a constructive way of showing the value you put on that experience.
  • If you didn't have a mentor when you started but would have liked one, this is your way of improving the organisation for people who come after you. It makes it more likely that others will take on the role, and that the organisation will take more care of its people.
  • It uses your experience, making it available to a new person.
  • It widens your understanding of the organisation and the way it works. This is useful in itself and particularly useful if you have a management role or wish to prepare for one.
  • It practises useful skills including tact, negotiating and making explicit agreements about relationships.
  • The head of your institution might appreciate it.
  • You can put it on your c.v.