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Who is your mentor?

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

Mentoring plays a role in your development and helps you reach your potential. Who is supporting you, challenging you, introducing you to new opportunities, acting as your sounding board and helping you learn new skills? Having an effective mentor can increase your self-confidence, develop your skill-set and introduce you to new contacts. If you don’t have a mentor maybe it is time to find one?

Benefits of having a mentor

Your mentor will have gained skills and experience that you may wish to emulate. They can share their knowledge with you and share key learnings from decisions they have made throughout their careers.

Your mentor is someone you can trust and discuss issues with. They will hear you out and provide advice. They will also give you some accountability so your goals become more focussed and they should also offer constructive feedback.

A mentor can make introductions and expand your professional network. A study in 2010[1] found differences in how men and women view mentoring, women seeing it as a development tool, whereas men viewed it as being sponsored. It can be both.

How to Choose a Mentor

If your company doesn’t have a formal mentoring scheme, you can find a mentor informally. Your mentor could be within or outside your organisation. Think of someone who you admire professionally and you could learn from. It also needs to be someone you can trust so you can be honest about how you are feeling and any challenges you are facing.

Mentoring vs Coaching

A good mentor will bring elements of coaching to the meetings but there are key elements of mentoring that are different to coaching:

· Mentoring relationships tend to be longer term than coaching partnerships which tend to be for a specific duration.

· Mentoring tends to be voluntary and also benefits the career development of the mentor. The best mentoring relationships offer learning opportunities for both parties.

· Mentoring is more directive where the mentor shares their knowledge and experiences. Coaching is non-directive and provides a safe space for an individual to consider how they can achieve more or find their inner capabilities. A coach will help you understand yourself better so you feel more confident and equipped to deal with future challenges.

· A mentor will help with your general personal development whereas coaching tends to be more tailored to specific objectives. A coach will typically provide coaching as their full time role and will have been trained to deliver coaching.

What is Right For You?

A good mentoring relationship will help you develop skills and introduce you to new networks and opportunities helping you reach your career potential.

If you have a specific issue to address it could be that you engage a coach to help identify the specific areas you need to work on to resolve that particular issue or question.

It’s not really an either/or discussion. A mentor will help you with your longer term development and the broader context of your working life and this, at the right times can be supported by a coach helping you with specific needs.

[1] Ibarra et al. (2010) Why men still get more promotions than women. Harvard Business Review, 88(9), 80–85.

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