Mentoring A to Z series blog: how to get started

The third in my series of daily blogs leading up to National Mentoring Day on 27th October. Here I explain how I became a mentor and some tips how to start if you’re interested.

I officially became what I regard as a recognised mentor on 26th June 2008. This was the day I was awarded my post graduate degree in coaching and mentoring practice. With merit I might add! Since that date I have operated professionally as a paid mentor and coach and I describe myself as a practitioner.

My journey to mentoring began before the eponymous date.

Someone asked me recently when was it that I decided to be a trainer. That was easy to answer. I literally woke up one morning in 1998 – yes I can still remember that far back - recognised I was being asked to do ‘training’ in my job role of the time and decided I should be properly trained myself. I enrolled on a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) endorsed NVQ at my local FE college and 15 months later I qualified as a learning and development practitioner, along with professional licentiate membership.

The pattern was much the same for mentoring although this time it wasn’t a wake up one morning experience! I recognised through a combination of work experience, listening to my business clients’ needs and whilst planning for my own future and professional development, that this included studying, training for and qualifying as a mentor and coach. And so I qualified in 2008.

I took the academic route which involved monthly lecture days, online learning and working in virtual learning groups on topics, writing assignments which were marked. Alongside the study I had to work with six mentees/coachees over a minimum of six months, keep a reflective practice log, attend supervision, and then write it all up. That’s a quick summary that doesn’t reflect the additional stuff - a sizeable list of reading and research, attending ad hoc talks and seminars and keeping a CPD record up to date.

How to get started

If you’re interested in being a mentor, or recognise that you already provide support and helpful meetings or ‘chats’ with people who value your experience and insight, but you haven’t ever formalised things as ‘mentoring’, here are some tips.

Training

If you’re interested in mentoring my top tip is to have some training. It makes the difference and helps you understand what you need to do to be a good mentor and the skills and knowledge you need. If you have the right skills and knowledge then at the very least training will provide you with validation, some tips and tools and a framework to use. You don’t have to go so far as a degree like me unless you decide it is going to be a profession or you aspire to a higher level of learning and development. A good one day training experience can set you up with the skills, tools and understanding you need.

Volunteer your time as a mentor

  • Many employers have schemes internally. If there isn’t one at your place of work, why not start one? If there is an HR department, or a relatable senior manager, or group of like minded colleagues, get started that way.

  • Externally there are community projects, school schemes, youth and peer schemes.

  • Through Mentorsme the national portal you can find local businesses and organisations that provide matched enterprise mentoring services. Incidentally, mentees can also find an enterprise mentor this way.

Consider a qualification

If you want to study more seriously then there are vocational and academic routes. Check out SFEDI Awards for enterprise mentoring qualifications. A number of universities provide post graduate degrees and I suggest looking at those connected to professional, credible institutions such as CIPD and EMCC and where there is academic research going on into mentoring and coaching.

Support

Make sure you have a contact point for support as a mentor, even if you are volunteering. This could be a mentor champion or a named co-ordinator of a scheme, for example. It’s really important if you volunteer that you have support, if only for troubleshooting and the legal and ethical issues. The IOEE scheme has a business mentor manager you can contact so if you’re looking to volunteer for this matched scheme you’ll be in good hands. I recommend if you decide to train more formally that you have a supervisor. Both mentoring and coaching are becoming professionalised at this level and to some extent a merged one

Read up on it

Develop yourself and create your own ‘tool kit’. Do research and read articles and blogs. The best mentors understand what they need to develop in themselves and they commit to learning. Get Mentoring has some great resources for mentors and mentees including practical templates, a code of ethics and useful pocketbooks you can download.

I encourage you to volunteer a bit of your time and get mentoring! Get in touch if you’d like to have a conversation about mentoring.