Looking For Mentoring? Ask Yourself What You Really, Really Want

Experienced mentor Anna Hayward helps you think about how to prepare to get the most out of mentoring.

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You’ve found a great mentoring platform and you’re probably scanning a few profiles of who could be a suitable mentor. But before you hit that request button, take a little time to think about what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship and what you’re willing to put into it.

What do I want? It’s a simple enough question but sometimes the answers can seem hard to put into words. But time spent thinking about why you are engaging in the process and getting clearer on your goals will most likely lead you towards the right mentor at this stage for you and better mentoring outcomes.

It could be a feeling of not knowing where you’re going with your career, feeling overwhelmed by too much to do and not enough time to do it, or having to deal with a tricky boss who you feel doesn’t value what you do. You might be turning to a mentor because you feel stuck in a rut, or your working life is chaos. Or you may have an idea that you’d like a change in direction, but not sure what. Or you’ve identified your dream job but you’re not sure how to get there.

At this stage, you don’t need fully fledged answers. There’s a lot of reasons why this could be the right time for mentoring. A good mentor will help you identify and prioritise your objectives in your first couple of sessions, that’s part of what they do. But being clear on what you want could help you decide who to approach as a mentor. Try turning the motivation to seek mentoring into a simply worded desired outcome e.g., ‘I want to develop a better working relationship with my boss’ or ‘I want to be doing a job I love in a year’s time.’ You’ll feel more confident about starting mentoring as a result and hopefully a little bit excited too!

Here are 5 more top tips to get you off to a great mentoring start.

1. What are your expectations of a mentor? Try ranking what’s most important to you to help you make a selection. Is it specific industry or sector knowledge? Their potential contacts? Where are they in their career? Equally important is how they come across – who do you feel drawn to? It’s hard to glean this sometimes in a written profile but do they seem to demonstrate the personal qualities you are looking for? e.g., empathy, honesty, encouragement.

2. Commitment - if you are entering into a mentoring relationship, are you willing to put in the time for sessions and follow through on what has been discussed? If you want to make the most of the opportunity, please make sure you can clear the space in your life.

3. Ask others about their mentoring experience. What made it work for them?

4. Honesty and openness – you’re not there to impress your mentor. Tell it as it is and be prepared to give feedback to your mentor about what’s working for you and what is less useful.

5. Start with the end in mind – allow yourself to dream big. What would be the one outcome that would make a difference to you?

Good luck! I’ve seen mentoring really change people’s lives in a way they never could have imagined, and I find it tends to happen when people are open to possibility. It could be you.

Anna Hayward has been a volunteer mentor in the community and charity sector and a coach and consultant for organisations for many years. She believes passionately in the power of mentoring and helps set up and facilitate mentoring programmes. www.annahayward.co.uk

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