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Understanding mentoring

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a way of getting advice and support about your future from another person, who is called a ‘mentor’. Normally, this will be someone who has something in common with you but is further along in their education or career. For example, if you’re thinking about university, your mentor might be a current university student. If you’re interested in becoming a lawyer, your mentor might be a lawyer themselves.

Your mentor uses their knowledge and experience to help you to work out what you want to do, what steps you can take to get there, and how to deal with any problems.

Your mentor won’t judge you, or share the things you say with other people. They are there to help and support you.

How can mentoring help me?

Mentoring can help you in lots of different ways. For example, your mentor can:

  • Help you to think about your interests and what careers might be suitable for you

  • Help you to identify your strengths

  • Look at your CV or personal statement and help you to improve it

  • Suggest ways of dealing with problems you encounter

  • Give you advice about how to get into particular careers

  • Tell you when you are doing well and encourage you to do better

Because mentoring is individual, the help you get from your mentor will be specific to your needs and priorities.

What do I need to do?

Exactly how your mentoring works will depend on your project and on your particular relationship with your mentor, but there are some things that will help most people to have a successful mentoring relationship:

  • Show commitment to your mentoring by contacting your mentor regularly and replying to their messages quickly.

  • Ask your mentor questions proactively – don’t wait for them to give you the advice you need.

  • Don’t just rely on your mentor: do your own research and thinking as well.

  • Be open and honest about worries and setbacks, so that your mentor knows what support you need.

  • At the start of the relationship, discuss with your mentor things like how often you will be in touch, so that you both know what to expect.