Often I’m asked what mentoring can actually achieve.“OK, I get that it’s nice” (they say) “But it’s just a chat right? What can talking to someone do that I can’t do on my own?”
Actually a lot. Like bringing in more objectivity, creating bigger picture thinking, supporting creativity in problem solving, spotting unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaviour, benchmarking in new areas of work, hearing yourself think out loud, providing reassurance and sense checking, breaking large tasks into manageable chunks…and actually it helps you carve out time for the things you never get round to if you try to do it on your own.
That’s what I think, but what do the researchers who’ve worked with a mentor think? Below are some posters I’ve recently pulled together that capture overview data from two of the mentoring programmes I designed for researchers: research staff mentoring and thesis mentoring. Take a look, there’s a case study at the end of this post too.
Thesis Mentoring Overview (click to get PDF)
Research Staff Mentoring Overview (click to get PDF)
A mentoring case study | 2015 mentee | male | engineer
I approached the mentoring programme for help to form a career plan and get my work back onto a productive track. The reasons for approaching the mentoring programme for this help were to glean impartial advice from someone outside of my department who had experience in different institutions prior to their time in Sheffield. These were important points for me. It was essential to be able to have frank confidential conversations safe in the knowledge that nothing would reach my department. I also wanted perspectives of working elsewhere in Higher Education to help me consider my future options.
With my mentor, we discussed the wider Higher Education landscape in the UK and the nuances of our faculty in Sheffield. This was a comforting experience, as it helped clarify my opinions for remaining working in Higher Education and where the sector may be heading in the future, with someone more experienced than myself and willing to share their outside opinion. Additionally, I worked with my mentor to form a strategy to maximise my opportunities in Sheffield in the near-term.
Knowing that I’d sanity-checked and agreed a plan with my mentor has encouraged me to abide by it more closely than may have been the case otherwise.
Overall, the mentoring programme has given me more confidence in my approach to working at Sheffield and helped me produce a career plan for the future in the short-term. I feel in a much stronger position for having gone through the scheme and it has made me more content with working in my department.
The scheme has some particularly strong points. I found the fact that mentors as well as mentees had voluntarily entered the scheme a tremendously positive concept, because it meant that both parties wanted to be in the discussion. Having a mentor outside of my department also ensured there was no hidden agenda behind the discussions or fear of any information being used by my department at a later date.