Working life and learning
Working life and learning

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5 Finding a mentor

It can be very helpful to find a mentor who will support you in your workplace learning. A mentor is someone who can help you to think about problems you may be facing or new ideas or ways of working you want to try out. He or she will usually help by listening to your thoughts and ideas and asking questions to help you to think more clearly about them.

Your mentor may be someone you work with who is not directly connected to your studies but who has more experience relevant to your workplace than you. This might be a colleague, although usually not your line manager (unless your employer requires it or you work in a particularly learning-focused organisation). If you are not in paid employment you might prefer to choose a mentor who is close to your work context but who may also not be in paid employment. The key is to find someone who can help you to develop your skills and who can give you a new and different perspective on your learning.

You could look for a mentor who is:

  • easy to approach
  • experienced in the sort of work and learning that you wish to do
  • able to direct you to other helpful people and has good contacts
  • interested in the learning that you are doing
  • able to meet with you two or three times during your module
  • willing to talk and listen to you.

Of course, you are unlikely to find anyone who matches this list perfectly and sometimes your choice can be very restricted, but the next task will help you to start thinking about who you might approach.

Activity 5 Identifying a mentor

Timing: Allow about 40 minutes

Use Table 1 below to think about who might be a helpful mentor. (You can download a Word version here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .)

Identify three people who you think might make a good mentor. Score each possible mentor out of ten for each quality. You can compare possible mentors by the score you give them for each quality as well as their overall score.

Table 1 Chart to compare possible mentors
Name
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Experienced and knowledgeable about my ‘work’ situation
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Experienced and knowledgeable about learning and the academic world
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Easy to approach and supportive
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Trustworthy and able to keep confidences
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Interested in what I am doing and learning
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Good at encouraging and motivating
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Enough available time to be helpful to me
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Total:
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Words: 0
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Discussion

In completing the mentoring chart in Table 1, does anyone look like an obvious choice for your mentor? It may be a good idea to keep a couple of people in mind in case your first choice isn’t able to give you the necessary time.

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