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Mentoring: the myths and the competencies
Mentoring: the myths and the competencies

Mentoring enables an individual to follow in the path of a senior colleague who is able to pass on knowledge and experience.  The new business analysis apprenticeship scheme has provided an opportunity for senior BAs to pass on their skills, knowledge and insights to entrants to the profession. Given this, it is timely to look at some of the myths associated with mentoring and the potential payback.    

Myth 1: Mentoring is for people in trouble

Quite the opposite: mentoring offers an opportunity to maximise an individual’s potential and develop the career they want. This can involve those in a new role or aiming to improve their skill set.

Myth 2: Mentoring is very time consuming

Mentoring should be conducted on agreed terms that can vary according to the time available. Mentoring apprentices can require a significant time investment, but this can be agreed at a level to suit both parties. Also, mentoring can be achieved online or by phone.

Myth 3: Only mentees beneft from mentoring

Mentors benefit enormously from the mentoring process. Mentors have their ideas challenged and increase in confidence through sharing their knowledge and understanding. They are rewarded through seeing their mentees grow in ability and confidence. Apprentice mentors report that mentoring helps develop their own skills and broadens their experience. 

Myth 4: Mentors tell you what to do

A mentor role is to guide without directing, encourage self-discovery and provide support. The mentor may help the mentee to circumvent or avoid internal obstacles and will encourage them to discover new approaches to solving problems. 

Myth 5: Mentoring is for everyone

Mentoring isn’t for everyone. You should consider carefully if you have the required qualities. These will include;

  • An ability to listen actively. Mentors often help just by listening, asking thoughtful questions, and giving an opportunity for the mentee to explore their concerns with a minimum of interference.
  • Empathy. Mentors won't always fully understand what their mentee is going through but the ability to empathise and the willingness to try to understand is key. Effective mentors appreciate a mentee’s concerns, without being caught up in the problem themselves.
  • Flexibility and openness. Good mentors recognise that relationships take time to develop and that communication is a two-way process. They are willing to take time to get to know their mentee and to adapt to the mentee’s needs.
  • Leading by example. The mentoring conversation may be informal, but the overall approach should be professional and should demonstrate the importance of professionalism.
  • Being honest and open. Issues or concerns should be discussed in an open manner. Mentors should be approachable and should show respect for the mentee. 

On a recent apprentice assessment day, the phrase “situationally determined” was used in reference to employees seeking to make a career change. My first reaction was to place this firmly in the ‘corporate speak’ bracket. When properly explained though, it refers to the situation that a lot of people find themselves in where they perform roles that don’t play to their strengths and don’t enable them to realise their full potential. Mentoring can play a critical part in overcoming these situations, helping people to make significant changes to their working lives and maximise their potential. “Situationally enabled” might be the order of the day. 

While, mentoring is something we might dip into so that we can beef up our CV, effective mentoring can result in so much more and, with the right combination of skills and attitude, supporting a fellow professional with career development can offer a fulfilling new dimension to an existing role. Could mentoring be for you? It might be worth considering.

The Human Touch, Thomas, Paul and Cadle, BCS

Institute for Apprenticeships

 

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