Being the sort of mentor you wish you’d had!
In my last article, I regaled you with my experience of starting work and how my boss at the time was reluctant to provide me with the guidance and support I needed. The forest industries today embrace a diverse range of skills and occupations, and yet they all have one thing in common; new people start in them every day and they need our help!
When people start in a new job they require two things, irrespective of how “qualified” they may be. They need to be assisted in acquiring the practical work based skills and knowledge to be effective in their position (coaching) but they also have a need for longer term guidance and assistance with their unfolding career (Mentoring). A mentor is someone who goes beyond the normal workplace training and instruction roles. They are the person who is there to get the new starter to a place in the future which satisfies their personal as well as their professional development.
Many organisations have a mentoring process in place for their new starters and will arrange for mentoring relationships to be initiated. This means selecting the right sort of people to be mentors. The mentor is often picked on the basis of their own experience and personable nature as well as a good understanding of the organisation and its networks and nuances. They usually do not work directly with the new staff member and this “distance” can be very useful in ensuring a bigger picture focus is maintained during the mentoring activities.
To be effective a mentor must accept the following two key responsibilities
- They need to be prepared to build trust so that the new staff member feels comfortable sharing issues and problems. It is critical that they work on building a relationship with the person being mentored so that they genuinely see them as someone they can confide in and who is invested in their success.
- They must always model positive behaviour that the new starter can see and aspire to. The mentor must be the sort of person the new starter would like to be and preferably can show a career trajectory that is worth emulating.
As well as being conducted by the “right” sort of person, the mentoring relationship needs to operate within a well organised framework. In my next article I will look at how we go about creating this framework and also consider what training or development we might personally undertake to prepare us for a mentoring role.