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Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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5.1 Choosing a mentor

The success of the mentoring relationship relies on trust and openness, so it is very important that you ask the right person to take on the role of a mentor for you. Make sure that you ask someone whom you are sure will have your best interests at heart and will not have any interests that conflict with yours. If you have had a mentor in the past, think about the person who performed this role and whether you felt they were an appropriate choice.

Certain people may spring immediately to mind, such as your line manager or a member of your family. But if you think about it, the former has an interest in your performance at work and is possibly also mindful of his/her line manager demands. Will they be able to put all this to one side and think solely about you and your interests?

Family members, too, might present you with problems. They may have preconceptions, based on knowing you for many years, about what you like or are capable of and may find it difficult to leave this ‘baggage’ behind. Similarly, you may have expectations of them based on experience, which may not prove very productive. Family dynamics are very interesting, invariably complicated and not always helpful in these situations.

Friends are slightly different. They may have known you for fewer years and be more objective but the demands of friendship can sometimes make complete frankness difficult. Also you don’t want to risk a friendship being harmed by the dynamics of this new type of relationship.

The best type of person to choose is someone who has experience that you respect and value. They may be older than you – although this need not necessarily be the case – and will be prepared to spend some time with you on a regular basis. They will not judge you for your ambitions and ideas but will act as a ‘critical friend’ and will help you to achieve your action plan through questions, suggestions and feedback. You should also think about exactly what you are asking them to do and how much time this will take, as you need to be sure that they have the time to spare for this activity.

Activity 6 Identifying a possible mentor

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think for a few minutes about possible people who could act as a mentor for you. They don’t necessarily need to be people that you know well or even at all. They might be someone at your place of work, perhaps in another department, whom you respect and feel would be able to help you.

Start by writing a few names in your notebook or the Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   so you have some ideas to work with.

You need to choose your mentor carefully, so spend some time thinking about the people on your list and consider:

  • Have they the appropriate experience to support me?
  • Will they be interested enough to take this on?
  • Will they have the time to devote to this task?
  • How will I approach them and what will I ask of them?


Your list is very personal so there is no right answer to this activity. The important thing is that you consider your choice carefully.

You have now thought seriously about the pros and cons of having a mentor and, if you decided to take up this option, who might be an appropriate person to ask. Whatever your decision, you will benefit from having thought about the issues involved and your plans and decisions are likely to be better formulated as a result.