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Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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4 Becoming a mentor

The word mentoring is surrounded by other relevant words and line drawings.
Figure 4 Could I be a mentor?

If you have no interest in becoming a mentor at this point in your career, don’t view this section as less relevant to you. Activity 4 will give you a useful insight into your own skills and experiences, helping to build your self-awareness. You might even be persuaded that mentoring is a role that you’d like to explore in the future!

There is no single path to becoming a mentor. For example, you might be asked directly by someone, volunteer to become involved in a workplace scheme or even set up a programme yourself. More important at this stage is the path towards deciding if you want to do it and what you hope to gain from the experience.

Any potential mentor should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Do I want to openly and honestly share my knowledge and experience with others?
  • Am I able to listen carefully and to give constructive feedback?
  • Do I have the time to commit to a mentoring relationship?

If the answer to these questions is yes, the next thing to consider is what you want to gain from the experience. Is it the personal satisfaction of helping someone move forward in their career; the opportunity to add something positive to your own CV; or the probability that you’ll also learn something, for example, from a younger colleague who might be more technically savvy than you?

Once you’re clear on your own motivation, you can consider who you want to help and how.

Activity 4 Who could I mentor?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Take some time to consider who you would like to mentor and what you have to offer them. For example, are you thinking about:

  • staff in your workplace, e.g. junior staff, minority staff, new staff etc.?
  • young people considering their career options and opportunities, e.g. in a school, college or university context?
  • entrepreneurs, e.g. small business start-ups?
  • staff within your profession, e.g. through a professional organisation scheme?

In the box below, describe your ideal mentee. Try to identify a real person, for example, someone you work with or someone you have encountered in your local community. If you can’t think of anyone – create a fictional individual. What are their characteristics? What do they need support with? Why do they need a mentor?

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Now consider what you have to offer to that individual. For example, can you help to build their confidence, give them practical advice on making job applications, guide them through a particular project etc.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


This activity will help you to clarify what type of mentoring you want to focus on and what you have to offer. You looked at the skills of a good mentor in Week 3. Do you feel confident that you have those skills? Are there any key skills you need to develop further before signing up to become a mentor? For example, do you need to look for opportunities to practise your listening skills? Use the next steps activity in Week 8 to make a plan.

If you don’t want to be a mentor at this stage in your career – what have you learned about yourself through this activity? Are you now more aware of the support needed by a colleague? How can you help them without taking on a formal role? Have you realised that you do have something to offer that you hadn’t previously considered? Or do you feel you have nothing to offer yet – how can you change that?