As National Mentoring Day creeps closer, now is the time to seriously consider your career in terms of who affects it. Hopefully, the main person in your consideration is you; even right out of school you should be learning how to assess your own decisions, think through potential consequences, and find the right information to come to a conclusion you’re happy with.
But there are always other people who have input. Family, friends, colleagues, employers, teachers, celebrities; they each have a different level of status in your life, and can dramatically affect how you see a situation. Sometimes you might have so much external input that it can be difficult to parse your own feelings.
Here’s where a mentor comes in. With a steady, committed one-to-one relationship that is focused on development and guidance, if you and your mentor are well-matched then you can really blossom into understanding your own decisions a lot better and achieve more than you might have expected. Mentors have been used in all kinds of ways over the years. In fact, many businesses now take advantage of mentoring software to help promote a workforce that is constantly honing and growing its skillset.
The stats back this up: research from the Federation of Small Businesses shows that 94% of mentored businesses found mentoring helpful to overall success; a study from 2008 in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour shows that a mentoring relationship is linked with positive outcomes in behaviour, attitude, health, relationships, motivation and career; and data from Glasgow’s MCR Pathways programme shows increases in mentee motivation, attainment and ‘positive destinations’ (after-school entry to work, college or university) all from below 50% before the programme to above 80% afterwards.
So what is a mentor, exactly?
A mentor is someone who has more experience of something – whether that’s life in general, education, a specific business pathway or social environment – and can pass on the wisdom that comes from that experience to their mentee with a mix of listening, guidance, challenging and information, in a one-to-one setup. Ideally they are impartial and unbiased (or at least able to acknowledge their own biases), although sometimes it can be the case that natural mentorships form between colleagues or between a teacher and student. It works as a consistent relationship, sometimes for a set period of time, where both mentor and mentee are willing.
What kind of mentors are there?
As it stands at the moment in the UK, there are many, many organisations and charities set up to offer mentoring services. This could be business mentoring, for particular industries or specific demographics; youth mentoring, often targeting those who are at risk of less success due to socio-economic factors; or education mentoring, for those who are perhaps either struggling or over-achieving in an academic capacity.
Where can I find a mentor?
Sometimes a mentor relationship will naturally develop with someone over your career. This bit is important, though: don’t assume. If you need something from someone, such as a regular commitment to meet and talk, and you haven’t asked them if they are able to offer it, you can’t be surprised if they don’t have time for you. A far better way to find a mentor is to go through one of the dedicated mentorship services that have been set up throughout the country. Here we list a few, but go and do your own research – there are loads more. If you’re looking for academic mentoring, for example, the best place to start is in your college or university, many of which offer alumni mentoring schemes.
Mentorsme is a UK-wide government scheme to set up businesses and entrepreneurs with mentors. You can search by region or industry, and pair yourself with a suitable mentor organisation who will find you the right person.
MicroMentor is a global initiative that matches people in business on a volunteer mentor basis, as well as offering fora in which to post specific questions or thoughts to the whole community.
Group business mentoring
The Supper Club offers high-level group mentoring (or as they call it, ‘peer-learning’) so that a number of entrepreneurs and business owners, having first passed stringent membership criteria, can learn from one another at tailored events.
Women Who’s ‘The Roundtables’ has been recently set up off the back of huge demand for mentors for women in business. Women Who founder Otegha Uwagba has designed the mentoring sessions for groups of eight women to share their experiences and ask pertinent business and career questions.
MCR Pathways is a charity that was set up initially to offer weekly mentors for those schoolchildren in Glasgow who had spent some time in care. Now, due to their success they are expanding rapidly to include Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, and soon the whole of Scotland.
Arts Emergency was started in London to provide industry mentors for those young people who want to go into the arts but don’t have the resources or contacts to bypass the negativity and cuts plaguing higher-level arts education. They have since expanded to Manchester, with more cities planned in the near future.
Mosaic are part of the Prince’s Trust, and have several nationwide mentoring programmes for disadvantaged children including primary school, secondary school and ex-offenders.
Womentoring is a mentoring scheme for women in the publishing industry, from poets to agents and everything in between.
CFA UK have a yearly mentorship programme for professionals in the financial investment sector.
Structur3dpeople are set up for the tech industry in the UK, pairing industry professionals with women who are looking to get into the sector or move up the career ladder.
When you sign up to Stay Nimble, our digital coach will help you understand more about your career options and how to build daily habits to support you in your career. Where applicable, and if you need discussion to help you with your decision making, we’ll build finding a mentor into your plan to work on. We’ll assess this based on your progress and preferences, so if you need a helping hand, set up your profile today.
Author: Katherine Stephen
Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.