Mentoring supports a person to grow in confidence and find the tools they need to tackle the challenges they encounter, writes Samantha Bowen.

Mentoring is a vital skillset that for many, often seems out of reach and elusive.

But if it is done well and with a plan, it can be an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.

Fortunately, mentoring skills can be learnt and with the right support it can help you rapidly develop into a better leader not only in the future, but in your current day-to-day activities.

If mentoring seems like an unknown resource, you are not alone. Sixty per cent of people we surveyed have never had a mentor before. Perhaps, they genuinely haven’t been supported in their career, or maybe they haven’t recognised the mentors who surround them.

Samantha Bowen

When I first started my mentoring journey, I had no clue how to navigate meetings, set goals, or communicate what I needed. After successes, and failures, in mentoring I know how to best navigate these partnerships and ensure I am making the most of my mentor’s expertise.

Perhaps you feel the same?

No matter the reason, any misunderstanding about mentoring can leave us giving up on mentoring entirely and missing the massive benefits of building a strong mentor dynasty.

If you’re seeking a mentor, keep these keys to success in mind:

  1. Reflect on your current challenges and where you want your career to go. One of the common mistakes of those new to mentoring is they don’t know what they want help with. Mentors aren’t there to delegate what you need to know. They are there to help you find clarity. You don’t need to have it all figured out but you do need some ideas to work with. Asking for advice and support is all about getting uncomfortable as you build your skills, confidence and awesomeness.
  2. Know what you want to know. Having a goal is the most important thing to do and it will help you obtain the full benefits of mentoring. Identifying your challenges will help your mentor know how to help you. When you have clarity on how you want to grow as a leader, your mentor can help you develop an action plan, plus they will know how to best support you through advice, resources and support.
  3. Take the first step – teach into  your workplace, and beyond. Look for leaders who are tackling big challenges, or are leading in a way you admire. Also know that not everyone will respond and that is okay too. Just keep reaching out to people you admire and do it with intent. Seek them out on LinkedIn, or within your company’s contact list. Yes, even reach out to your CEO. It’s a great opportunity to see how others work – it could be one meeting or many.
  4. It’s up to you. After your first meeting, or your second or third, it is best practice to send an email thanking them for their time, sharing the insights that resonated with you and identifying the actions or tasks you will undertake that will take you closer to resolving your challenges or achieving your goal.
    This shows you are engaged and ready to take charge of your future – proving you are ready to listen to advice and take action.
  5. You are worth it and keep going. Mentor partnerships work best when you continue to share your success and ask for support through your challenges. It’s great to have one, but growing your network of mentors with varying experiences and backgrounds will ensure you have the support you need – when you need it most.

For many, knowing how to begin and understanding how to drive mentoring can be difficult. These tips are just the beginning of any mentoring journey.

With so much responsibility and uncertainty happening in our workplaces, it’s great to know that mentoring is a tool that will support you to grow in confidence and find the support you need to tackle the challenges.

Samantha Bowen is principal advisor of Leading Age Services Australia’s mentoring program, which provides support, guidance and understanding to drive successful mentoring partnerships. The next intake starts on 22 February 2021. Find out more here.

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