What is mentoring?
The simple answer is that mentoring is guiding, advising or training someone, especially a younger or less experienced colleague in a professional environment.
Traditionally mentoring is one-to-one, with a senior colleague or manager supporting a junior employee or trainee. This experience can be beneficial to both parties, with the mentee gaining personal and professional development, and the mentor honing their own leadership and motivational skills. Both parties also expand their networks and bring their own personal experiences to the relationship.
How does mentoring work?
While mentoring can take an informal path of general support, having an agreed plan can be much more beneficial for everyone.
As well as maintaining regular contact, a programme of meetings should be agreed to offer a dedicated opportunity to get together and discuss any issues. These could take place in the office and on-site, to ensure a broad variety of experience is shared.
For mentoring to be a success both parties need to prepare for meetings. The mentee should prepare a list of topics they’d like to discuss, which should be shared in advance. This will then give the mentor the opportunity to consider the advice they will give – including if anything should be added or removed from the list.
The mentor should be confident in the advice they give while also respecting the concerns of their charge – a request for guidance on an insignificant topic may seem like a waste of time, but if it’s a concern to the mentee perhaps they will benefit from talking through that small problem to help them move onto more pressing matters. The mentor/mentee relationship is a safe space to discuss ideas and challenges.
Why is mentoring important?
For the mentee the benefits are obvious: personal and professional development, improved network connections, a trusted advisor, and more. This is of the utmost importance if new engineers are to find their feet in the early years of their career – which is good for the engineering industry as a whole.
Personal and professional development is also a benefit for the mentor. The experience helps them to understand and appreciate the challenges faced by new generation engineers, keeping them in touch with activities that may be less of a feature in their own career, while also expanding their own network.