5 Finding support
Making plans is the relatively easy part of the process; achieving these plans is more challenging. One way to try to ensure that you do this is to enlist the aid of someone else who will help to keep you on track. Such a person is often known as a ‘mentor’, defined by Oxford Dictionaries as ‘an experienced and trusted adviser’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2021).
Mentoring can be very valuable in a careers context. A mentor can become a trusted adviser and guide who will encourage and support you by asking the right questions, making appropriate suggestions and giving helpful feedback on your ideas and reflections. The overall objective is to help you to achieve your career goals and your action plan is a key element of this process.
First, however, you need to think about whether or not you actually want or need a mentor. You may be very independent and feel that you don’t need anyone to act as an adviser or a critical friend to you. You may feel that, at the moment, you are capable of making decisions and plans for yourself without the need to discuss toothese with anyone else. Alternatively, you may have had a mentor in the past and this relationship didn’t work well for a number of reasons. There is no requirement for anyone to have a mentor but it is an approach that you should consider, even if you decide against the idea.
Activity 5 The mentoring relationship
Take a look at this video from Duke Graduate School in the USA, in which mentoring staff talk about what they think constitutes a good mentoring relationship.
As you watch, make some notes about your thoughts and reactions to the views of the people interviewed.
The interviewees explain how the mentoring relationship can vary depending on the people involved and the situation. Although the context is an academic institution, many of the points made would apply to other settings and should give you a sense of the benefits that you might obtain from having a mentor.
Having listened to the staff at Duke Graduate School, take a few minutes to think through whether having a mentor would help you as you tackle some of the issues involved in this course.
- How would you feel talking to someone more experienced about your plans and ideas?
- Would you be happy doing this and seeking feedback from them?
- Would it help you to put things into context and to get a second opinion?
- Would it help you to focus your thoughts and prioritise your ideas?
Perhaps you have had a mentor in the past – how did this relationship work for you? Did it help you to achieve your goals? Did you feel in control with someone else to bounce ideas off and with whom to share your thoughts? Would a different choice of mentor have been more productive?
Try to think of this in terms of the pros and the cons so that you create a kind of balance sheet, as below.
The results of this activity might not be clear-cut and you may still be unsure about whether to seek the help of a mentor. You may decide not to take forward this idea at the moment, but at least you have thought about the pros and cons meaning that you can always return to the possibility at a later stage.
If you have decided that having a mentor might be a good idea, then you will need to think about which person might best perform this role.