Career Development Opportunities

Becoming a mentor

Why become a mentor?

There are few, if any, technical-staff-specific mentoring schemes available. Becoming a ‘technical’ mentor would contribute to the aim of raising the profile of technical staff and provide a resource that helps them take control of their career development. Engaging in a mentoring relationship is beneficial for mentor and mentee as well as the institution/organisation.

The specific benefits for the mentor are:

  • Broadening of skills and knowledge.
  • Provision of a new dimension to current job.
  • It can increase personal and professional networks.
  • Seeing others develop from your experience(s).
  • Increase in knowledge retention within organisation.
  • The mentor has a direct positive impact on recruitment and retention.
  • The experience of being a mentor can contribute to CPD.
  • If the mentor can link the experience directly to their own career development, then this may be more appealing and could help in getting mentors registered on a scheme.

What attributes does a mentor need?

  • Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise.
  • Acts as a positive role model.
  • Has the ability to motivate individuals by demonstrating a professional approach.
  • Takes a personal interest in the mentoring relationship.
  • A mentor must have the ability to actively listen.
  • Provides guidance and constructive feedback.
  • Values the opinions and initiatives of others.
  • Champions the mentee when objectives or milestones are met. Shows commitment to the relationship.

What is the role of the mentor?

Mentors are often viewed as being more experienced members of staff who are willing and able to pass on the benefit of that experience. However, the role is not to ‘tell’ the mentee what to do, the role of the mentor is to:

  • Listen and be supportive
  • Provide non-judgemental support
  • Provide guidance on issues raised
  • Clarify the goals of the mentee
  • Pass on knowledge and experience

I am interested in becoming a mentor, what do I do?

  1. Register as a mentor with your institute’s mentoring scheme, an external scheme, or offer yourself as a mentor through a technicians forum.
  2. Check the criteria of the scheme. Technical-staff-specific schemes may require mentors to have some technical background or a working knowledge of the role of technical staff. If the scheme is being newly set up by your institution, they may outline some specific criteria/skills for mentors to possess.
  3. Check if your previous training or experience is relevant to this scheme.
  4. If the scheme requires, attend any necessary training or briefing for mentors.
  5. Access an online forum to read about other people’s experiences as a mentor.
  6. Engage with the matching process. This may mean attending a matching event and/or completing a personal profile.

After the ‘match’ has been made

The programme that you have engaged with should outline the next steps to take. If not, then use the following as a guideline:

  1. Arrange an initial ‘getting to know each other’ first meeting with your mentee. This meeting could include completing the mentoring agreement form and planning the agenda for the first ‘real’ meeting. Subsequent meetings should be arranged and led by the mentee.
  2. Support the mentee in setting their objectives. (The objective setting template document could be used here).
  3. Make your expectations clear to your mentee.
  4. Meet with the mentee as agreed.
  5. Take time to review each meeting. (Template agenda).
  6. Review the objective-setting document with the mentee and ensure they are providing evidence that progress is being made.
  7. Document what you are learning from this process. Although the main aim of this process is to develop the mentee, there will be skills that the mentor will gain or develop merely by being engaged in the process. These skills can often be transferred into the workplace and will be valuable in any subsequent mentoring relationship.
  8. If the relationship is not working, follow the guidance in the section below if the relationship needs to be brought to a close.

Evaluation

Evaluation is likely to take different forms depending on the institute’s programme. Complete any evaluation as necessary. Some may be required during the mentoring process as well as at the end of the relationship.

Mid process evaluation form. Evidence suggests that evaluating mentoring halfway through the programme helps to uncover subject areas that mentors and mentees may need additional support with.

Formal evaluation process at the end of the relationship. (Evaluation template)

Actions to take if the mentoring relationship is not working or has broken down

As the mentor, you are not responsible for setting meeting dates, agendas etc. Do not ‘chase’ the mentee.

However:

  • Ensure that you make each meeting. Missed meetings will affect the relationship.
  • If you feel that the relationship is not working, be honest with your mentee about it. It is important that the process is positive so continuing with a relationship that is not working will be detrimental to both mentee and mentor.
  • Find a resolution if possible and continue the relationship following the newly agreed direction.
  • If resolution is not possible, end the relationship formally by completing the exit form. Cite any reasons if you feel it may be beneficial or appropriate.
  • Contact your institute’s programme co-ordinator and explain that the relationship has been terminated.
  • Offer yourself as an available mentor on the programme again.