What is mentoring?

In the Further Education (FE) and Skills sector, many of us will have heard of mentoring, but some might not know what it is exactly. In this blog, we’ll discuss what mentorship is and how it can benefit your professional career.  

What is mentoring and how can it help you? 

Mentoring is a protected relationship which supports learning and experimentation and helps professionals develop their potential.  

The mentorship is usually between two professionals of different seniority levels, who meet with the purpose of supporting the mentees’ growth, learning, and career development.  

The idea behind mentorship is not for mentors to give the answers, but to help a mentee come to their own conclusion. It is a reflective experience, enabling mentees to learn about different practices and how to apply them to their situation.

Two people having a conversation

The benefits of mentorship  

No matter where you are in your career, you can always benefit from getting a little extra guidance from an expert. Having a mentor can help you to: 

  • make time for personal learning  
  • gain more confidence in making decisions 
  • focus on career progression and get impartial advice 
  • develop new skills and knowledge. 

You’ll also be able to tap into your mentor’s wealth of experience and knowledge and access non-judgemental guidance and support. 


The foundations of an effective mentorship 

No two mentoring relationships are the same, however, a mentor should always strive to: 

  • elicit: asking questions and listening 
  • support: encouraging and validating 
  • impart: sharing knowledge and experience 
  • challenge: providing a different perspective 

The traditional view of mentoring is where a mentor shares their experience and imparts knowledge. In more modern mentoring, a mentor does a lot more listening than talking.  


Mentor roles 

Mentors can take on many different roles, including: 

  • guide 
  • confidante 
  • catalyst 
  • link 
  • role model 
  • sounding-board 

The best mentors are those who aren’t afraid to challenge you and offer a different perspective, whilst also providing support. Sometimes, all you might need to do is to talk to someone, and this in itself can become a catalyst for positive change. 


Using a mentor to overcome challenges 

As any professional will know, many challenges can arise within the workplace. One of the most useful benefits of having a mentor is being able to talk through your challenges and draw on their experiences to find alternative solutions. 

From changing your career, developing leadership skills, managing people, or dealing with conflict, a mentor can help you create a unique strategy to overcome the challenges that are personal to you.  


Next steps to mentorship 

If you’re interested in getting started with a mentor, visit our SET MentorMe platform, exclusive to SET members, which offers a mentor-matchmaking service, as well as handy tools, resources and guides to help you get the most out of your mentorship.