Thing 11: On being a mentor

I’ve never had a formal mentor in my career – as my previous post made clear, I qualified long before the current chartership scheme – though I have learned from informal ones. These days, I’m more likely to be mentoring others than being mentored myself. It’s a role I’ve always enjoyed, whether with new staff, ILS students on placement or mentees on the official CILIP scheme. Recently, I gave a talk on being a mentor to a Chartership Workshop and, as part of that, I made up a Wordle of the terms I’d come across in my reading on mentorship that seemed to me to be the most appropriate. I’ve added in one or two more on reading the latest cpd23 blogpost.

20120709-194608.jpg The Wordle’s purpose was to underline my main point about what a mentor does – it’s made up of very supportive words*. Mentors are not there to direct, advise specific courses of action or provide answers to problems, but to help mentees through the process of working things out for themselves by listening, asking probing questions and acting as sounding-boards. It’s a two-way street of course, and mentees also have to be willing to share their thoughts, listen, and keep an open mind for feedback.

Why do people volunteer to be mentors? Well, it’s a satisfying way to put something back into the profession, and often the mentor learns as much as the mentee. This can be especially true when they come from different sectors. It’s nice to be thanked at the end, whether by a student going back to university having enjoyed a placement in the library or by a successful chartership candidate, giving a sense of pride in a job well done. I want to continue this role now that I have taken early retirement, and so far the signs are good. I have one on-going mentee and two have recently contacted me to start later in the summer – one as a result of hearing me speak at the chartership workshop, so I must have said something right! I guess eventually the requests could dry up, as people might start to regard me as out of touch once I have been away from work for a while, but at the moment I see it as an advantage to mentees to have someone who can devote more time to them.

*PS I cheated a bit with the chocolate. I came across that in the Twitter #chartership chat on mentoring (and if you don’t know about this resource, see here) but typed it in a few times to make it bigger for effect. I was very impressed when it turned out a chocolatey colour though. Wordle magic!