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Guide to Mentoring

Most people achieve better levels of professional success if they have the guidance and help of a mentor, someone with whom they can discuss in confidence their career plans, who is willing and able to provide help and guidance to enable the person being mentored to recognise their own development potential and encourage them to realise it.

IGEM offers a mentoring service to members wishing to gain registration with the Engineering Council and is constantly seeking further volunteers who would like to share their knowledge and experience to help new members progress and develop.

What is a Mentor?

A mentor is a member of IGEM who assists another to grow, acquire new skills and insights, and develop his/her potential. The mentoring relationship builds confidence and helps the mentee to take increasing responsibility for his/her own development.

A successful mentor is someone who:

  • Volunteers time to take personal interests in others
  • Listens 'actively'
  • Questions and finds out what is important to the mentee, exploring their skills and aspirations
  • Creates an open and candid relationship, to encourage the growth of trust and confidence, which assists the learning process
  • Regards all that the mentee says as confidential
  • Avoids mentoring those in a direct reporting line and may influence, but not 'step on toes' of line managers
  • Is fully aware of their own limitations and is able to overcome them as well as those of the mentee
  • Has appropriate training and experience for the role, including knowledge of the UK standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UKSPEC)

Benefits frequently reported by Mentors for themselves include:

  • Satisfaction from helping others and seeing them progress
  • Deeper broader knowledge of their own and other organisations
  • Opportunity to practice and develop management skills
  • Job enrichment and the chance to build wider networks
  • Increased self confidence and higher visibility within an organisation

We are always pleased to hear from our members who would like to assist with the assessment of engineers looking to become members of the Institution. For further information on supporting this process please contact Membership Services.

Key skills and responsibilities of a Mentor

Communication Skills

You will need a range of interpersonal skills including:

  • Listening attentively and non-judgementally
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Questioning skills to encourage a mentee to talk and think through issues
  • The ability to challenge constructively

Personal Organisation

Before you start mentoring, consider the amount of time you are willing to give. Is it the level of commitment that a mentee expects? Can you give time on the telephone?

Flexible attitude

Being flexible means that you respond appropriately to a mentee's changing needs and are open to new ideas and different ways of doing things. Flexibility comes with increased awareness of your own behaviour and attitudes and those of others.

Expectations

You will need to think beforehand about what you want from the mentoring relationship. For instance, who will be responsible for the practical aspects of the process, who will organise when and where to meet and who will initiate reviews of the relationship?

The role of the Mentee

The success of a mentoring relationship depends on the attitude and commitment of the individual being mentored (mentee).

The mentee should understand the role of the mentor is to challenge and encourage but not to provide answers. He/She should:

  • Guard against becoming dependant on the mentor
  • Approach each meeting fully prepared
  • Be open to ideas, suggestions and different perspectives
  • Be open and honest about what works and what does not

Benefits of having a Mentor

Most of us benefit from having someone with whom we can discuss our hopes, plans and problems.

A mentor can offer:

  • A different perspective
  • Challenges based on experience
  • Encouragement
  • Help getting motivated when the going is tough
  • Help with setting ogals and defining how to achieve them

Members that have used mentors in the past have found that the relationship has:

  • Enhanced their training and career development
  • Significantly influenced their attitudes and professional outlook
  • Guided them round major procedural obstacles and pitfalls
  • Improved their results by challenging their assumptions

The mentoring relationship

Relationships that start with a clear 'learning contract' are generally the most rewarding.

Conflicts of interest must be avoided, so it is usually considered inappropriate for a mentoring relationship to exist between manager and subordinate, or other colleagues.

It is important that ground-rules are established at the beginning of the relationship, to avoid misunderstanding later on. These may include the timings and format of the meetings, the expected length of the commitment and methods of communications.

Responsibilities and expected outcomes may be discussed at an early stage. For instance, it is important to state any specific results the mentee hopes to gain from the relationship and how they will be measured.

Guidance for meetings

Guidelines for the first meeting

  • Ensure that expectations of the relationship are discussed and you are both clear on what the mentee's goal is - i.e Engineering Council registration? What level?
  • Jointly establish the gap between the mentee's capabilities and the requirements for registration
  • The mentor needs to consider how confident they are that the mentee is registrable
  • Agree guidelines on how you will work with each other. For instance, how often you both think you need to meet and for how long, do you want to set agendas for each meeting, whose responsibility will they be and where will you meet?
  • The mentee should establish what their expectations are for their mentor

Guidelines for future Meetings

  • Establish in what areas the mentee needs the most help, together create a development plan to monitor progress
  • The mentor must be aware of the requirements for registration at the appropriate level and be able to demonstrate relevant competencies as required by the UKSPEC
  • Briefly summarise the notes of the previous meeting (mentor or mentee)
  • Update status of any actions that were agreed in previous meetings
  • The mentor should build on the mentee's own ideas, share their thoughts and ideas but don't give advice
  • The mentee should be encouraged to take notes
  • Agree a date and time for the next meeting

Guidelines for between meetings

  • Send a brief note to summarise actions (mentor or mentee)
  • Do anything that you have promised to do promptly
  • Keep in touch

What to do if the relationship is not working

Although IGEM will endeavour to match mentors with the appropriate mentees, there will be occasions (for whatever reason) when the relationship does not work.

IGEM will monitor your progress and you will be asked to provide feedback at different stages of the relationship. If at any time you feel that the relationship is not progressing as it should, you can contact membership services to discuss your concerns and the possibility that a different mentor/mentee may be more appropriate.

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