• Establish what you are looking for. If you have clear goals then you’re more likely to have a better experience. You might want to pass on your skills and experience to someone more junior in your field. Or perhaps you want to make a difference to the community, for example, by helping a young person through schemes like Beatbullying’s cyber mentoring.
• Find a mentee through your network or organisation. Do you know someone in your network who you can mentor? Some of the best mentoring relationships develop organically, for example, I was recently approached by someone who I periodically give informal advice to. Similarly, a few years ago I was asked to mentor a new junior member of staff at my organisation as she needed to learn marketing skills as part of a service delivery role. In-company mentoring programmes can be a great way for your organisation to retain and engage staff, as well as pass on their expertise.
• Find a mentee through a scheme. There are many well-established schemes that match mentors and mentees. Volunteering charity Timebank’s Leaders Together programme pairs senior professionals from private, public and voluntary sector organisations with leaders of small London-based charities. Some professional membership bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), also offer mentoring schemes. If you’re tight for time, some mentoring programmes allow you to mentor over the phone or Skype. Online mentoring network Horse’s Mouth even offers the option to mentor virtually.
• Set expectations. It’s good practice to establish guidelines for the relationship early on with your mentee. Your mentee may have concerns about specific issues such as confidentiality, so do talk those through.
• Avoid common pitfalls. As your relationship with your mentee develops, there are a few things to be aware of. When I first became a mentor a few years ago, I was so keen to help that I spoonfed my mentee. Your ultimate goal is to empower your mentee and it can be more effective to ask constructive but challenging questions.
Your role is also to guide, not enforce. This can become tricky if your mentor isn’t fully committed to the process. A contact of mine mentored someone who was repeatedly late for no reason. I advised her to reiterate the support she could offer but reaffirm her boundaries for the relationship. Your time is valuable and mentoring should be enjoyable and useful for both you and your mentee.
• Use your mentoring experience to progress your career. As well as being personally rewarding, mentoring offers good opportunities for professional development and career progression. Jennie Taylor says: “Many employers value staff who can demonstrate activities outside of their standard job description, and will actively look for this when recruiting. Mentoring is a great opportunity to show employers that you are a dedicated individual who is willing to go the extra mile in your work through helping others.”