The benefits of mentoring are indisputable – from increasing confidence and providing perspective to creating opportunities and building networks.
However, there is no denying that when it comes to mentoring, it can be hard to know where to start. How do you create a new connection? What questions do you ask? And, how do you build a meaningful relationship?
Last week, UQ leadership expert, Professor Polly Parker, and founder of She Mentors, Ali Adey, presented a webinar called Mentoring for Career Success. Here are their top tips to make mentoring work for you and your career.
1. Realise the power of relational learning
A study from the Centre of Creative Leadership reveals that learning happens in three contexts:
- during challenging on-the-job assignments,
- through relationships with other people, and
- from formal coursework and training programs.
The centre’s research found that a combination of these three types of experiences influence how executives learn, grow and change over their careers. Learning through developmental relationships – like mentoring – can account for about 20 per cent of leadership development.
2. Create high-quality connections
According to Professor Parker, a high-quality connection is characterised by mutuality, interdependence and empathy. These characteristics empower each person to benefit from the connection by creating an agile environment, where they can ask questions and share knowledge. Professor Parker recommends following these seven steps to create a high-quality connection.
- Know what you want
- Clarify expectations
- Define confidentiality
- Discuss the kind of support you are seeking
- Build trust
- Aim to reciprocate
- Listen actively
3. Understand essential interpersonal skills
In addition to the above steps, Professor Parker says it’s also important to develop your own ‘essential relational skills’ – asking effective questions, identifying needs, self-management and accountability – to create career success.
When connecting with others, remember that asking effective questions is a powerful way to enable someone else to identify their needs. As is bringing attention to your own self-management – knowing that sometimes your role is not to solve someone’s problems, but rather to ‘pause, wait and listen’ to what they have to say. It can be difficult to resist offering your opinion, but if you can demonstrate self-management, your support will empower them to make their own decisions.
Finally, keep yourself accountable. No matter what your role is in the mentoring relationship (mentor, mentee, or peer), be clear on what it requires and keep yourself accountable for your contribution. Step two of the previous tip (clarify expectations) can help with this.
4. Be open to peer coaching
Peer coaching – learning from someone with a similar level of experience as yourself – can be invaluable. Peer coaching can be much more accessible as it often doesn't require a formal matching process. It also removes the power dimension of a traditional mentoring relationship and allows you to connect over shared experiences. Participating in peer coaching is an excellent way to develop internal leadership capability and confidence, as you can practice asking effective questions (a key interpersonal skill).
Not every mentoring relationship must involve differences in seniority. In fact, there is a lot to gain from speaking and connecting with your peers.
5. Join a mentoring group or platform
Adey says that one of the main reasons people don’t reach out to those who inspire them is fear of rejection. A mentoring group or platform removes this fear. Everyone who has signed up to the platform is looking to create new connections. If you are interested in seeing how a mentoring platform can work for you, why not join UQ’s Alumni-to-Alumni (A2A) mentoring platform? Available to all UQ alumni, A2A provides a safe and supportive environment from which to connect with your UQ community and begin reaping the benefits of mentoring.
The power of mentoring is real, and it’s available to you. Do something good for your career today and act on this advice. You never know where your next conversation could take you.
This advice was taken from our 'Mentoring for Career Success' webinar. View the original webinar or listen to the podcast.