Be the Mentor you wish you’d had!

Starting in a new position and getting ahead can be a daunting prospect for many people. It is not just about getting their head around the day-to-day work, but also navigating the challenges of dealing with different people, understanding how to get things done and knowing those important things that are not in the procedures manual. Modern workplaces embrace a diverse range of skills and occupations, and yet everyone who starts in them have one thing in common. They need an experienced hand to help them out!

When people start in a new job, they require two things, irrespective of how “qualified” they may be. They need to be assisted in acquiring the practical work-based skills and knowledge to be effective in their position (coaching), but they also have a need for long term guidance and assistance with their unfolding career and growth (Mentoring). A mentor is someone who goes beyond the normal workplace training and instruction roles. They are the person who is there to help the new starter move to a place in the future which satisfies their personal as well as their professional development.

Many organisations have a mentoring process in place for their new starters and will arrange for mentoring relationships to be initiated. This means selecting the right sort of people to be mentors. The mentor is often picked on the basis of their own experience and personable nature as well as a good understanding of the organisation and its networks and nuances. They usually do not work directly with the new staff member and this “distance” can be very useful in ensuring a bigger picture focus is maintained during the mentoring activities.

To be effective a mentor must accept the following two key responsibilities

  • They need to be prepared to build trust so that the new staff member feels comfortable sharing issues and problems. In this sense, it is critical that they work on building a relationship with the person being mentored so that they genuinely see them as someone they can confide in and who is invested in their success.
  • They must always model positive behaviour that the new starter can see and aspire to. The mentor must be the sort of person the new starter would like to be and preferably can display a career trajectory that is worth emulating.

A productive mentoring relationship starts with a mentor who has a good mix of personal qualities, experience and emotional intelligence. In the next Blog entry I will look at this mix in more detail to show how we can better prepare ourselves for a mentoring role.

In the interim, check out our great micro-learning modules covering Mentoring in the workplace: