Mentoring is a valuable source of development whether you are a member of academic staff with a secure employment contract or more precariously employed as a sessional lecturer or research associate; a new researcher transitioning in to doctoral study; a member of the professional services staff who manage our departments and core facilities and keep the lights on; or one of the huge range of specialists who contribute your expertise as librarians, academic developers, careers advisors, counsellors, strategic planners, disability or welfare advisors and the hundreds of other essential functions of a university.
From the literature, we see evidence that mentoring provides an opportunity for new university staff to make interpersonal connections, enabling informed and supportive professional development and can enhance the development and profile of underrepresented groups in HE.
Is your mentor talking more than they are listening?
Look out for this classic mentoring error! If you’ve met your mentor, and find you’re getting too much ‘telling’ and not enough listening, please know this is solvable.
Here is a blog post on expanding on how mentors can develop a repertoire beyond advice, and here’s one on the power of listening. If you feel it would be well received, share it with your mentor as part of your feedback to them. If it wouldn’t be well received – proceed to the step below, and find a new mentor.
You can leave the partnership if it’s not what you want.
Choosing and working with a mentor is an important career decision. Choosing the wrong mentor can hinder your career rather than enhance it and so dedicate some time to reflection on how things are going. There is no need to persist with a mentor you’d rather not work with.
If you meet once, maybe twice, and you aren’t getting what you need, don’t agonise over how to tell them. Simply thank them, and genuinely, for their input. Name something you have achieved as a result of meeting with them. And advise them you are now stepping back to consider what you’ve learned and prioritise for your next steps.
Mentoring, if it is a consciously designed alliance, can be a truly beneficial relationship for both parties and we urge you to seek out people who will be only too happy to share their insight, knowledge and experiences – but also to listen to yours.
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