Mentoring strategies have grown in use in business and professional settings over the last few years and for a very good reason. The benefits of mentoring as a method of sharing knowledge and experience in a learner-led format are huge. I champion mentoring as it is a fantastic mix of support and continuing professional development which is beneficial for both sides of the partnership, developing key skills in communication, resilience, confidence, leadership and self-awareness.
The FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme, which is run by Built By Us, is now in its fifth year and is the longest-running pan-professional, inter-business career mentoring programme for built environment professionals. Designed to support career progression and develop leadership skills among underrepresented practitioners, FLUID has inspired renewed interest in mentoring in construction and helped individuals to realise their goals - from increasing the value they add to their organisations, developing as leaders and assisting them in starting their own enterprises.
Six Tips on getting the best from the mentoring experience
So how as a mentee can you get the best from the mentoring experience? Here are 6 tips:
- Expect to work hard - as a mentee you are the engine of your partnership and your mentor is more like the steering wheel. This means it is your energy, effort and input that takes the partnership forward. While it may be tempting to take a back seat and hope that your mentor will lead, this strategy can backfire, taking many a partnership off track. As a mentee don’t be afraid to take the initiative with your mentor. Don’t wait or expect to be led, take ownership and initiate communication, ask questions and share your thoughts.
- Expect support, not miracles. Your mentor is not there to solve all of your problems for you. The value that a mentor brings is to provide new perspective, the benefit of their experience and to act as a sounding board. They may also be able to help identify other individuals, resources or networks for assistance.
- Be teachable - actively listen and be open to learning new things. Hearing and responding to constructive feedback is an important part of the process along with reflecting on your conversations.
- Respect your mentor’s time - Take a look at your calendar right now - chances are that your diary is pretty full and it is the same for your mentor too! If you know that you have periods in the future where you are going to be swamped or offline, let your mentor know. By the same token make sure that you are not overburdening your mentor with emails, for example, several emails a day or week (unless this had been initiated). Book appointments for discussions.
- Focus on building a relationship - Building a relationship takes time and the quickest way to damage it is through lack of patience. You’ve met that person who within a very short space of time, he or she starts asking for stuff! Annoying isn’t it? It is important to devote the majority of your time to building a rapport with your mentoring partner; take the time to get to know them, communicate clearly and correct any misunderstandings.
- Follow up - If you decide to take action on an issue raised in your mentoring session, let your mentor know. Feedback is important for your mentor too and it is encouraging when both you and your mentor can share your progress.
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