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Information on being a mentor at the University, to help you consider if mentoring is right for you.


The role of a mentor

A mentor helps someone to find a way though challenges they face, bringing their own experience and an ability to help individuals think through their own situation. The challenges are often related to career moves, but could be short term tasks or situations at work or long-term strategy. It is helpful if the mentor has walked a similar path before. This doesn’t mean the mentor has to be very senior, as long as they can bring learning from their own experience as it is relevant to the mentee’s goals.

What makes an effective mentoring relationship

Good mentors are focused on the needs of the mentee. Although they are expected to give advice, they will be good listeners and ask pertinent questions that help the mentee think through their situation and goals. If they are offering advice, they will be aware of their own values and biases. When their own expertise or knowledge isn’t enough, an effective mentor will say so and signpost other sources of help, perhaps from their own network. Constructive, evidence-based feedback is also a key feature of a useful mentoring exchange. Mentees need to have a commitment to their own learning, to be open to feedback and to be honest and reflective about their own behaviours, strengths and challenges. They need to be willing to work with a mentor to find solutions and not expecting to be given all the answers.

How to set up a mentoring relationship

The first stage is an informal conversation to set out mutual expectations, mostly focused on what the mentee wishes to achieve through having a mentor. You should reach agreement about practical aspects, too: how often will you meet, what other modes of communication are going to work for you? This meeting is to figure out whether you think you will get along and have a productive relationship. If either of you think it won’t work, there’s absolutely no fault in deciding not to go ahead. Go over these guidelines together. If you do go ahead, make a note of what’s been agreed.

How long a mentoring relationship lasts

Is a mentor for life? Sometimes, but usually not. A mentoring relationship set up to help with an immediate, short-term challenge may only involve one or two meetings. You may agree to work on a particular period of the mentee’s career, and then part after a few months. Some mentoring relationships carry on for years in an informal way. In any case, it is always OK for either party to end the relationship for any reason without fault. Perhaps there’s been a change in workload or circumstances, or the value of the meetings has diminished, or simply the agreed goals have changed or been achieved.

Why be a mentor

Mentors often report getting a lot out of the process themselves. As well as the satisfaction of helping colleagues to be successful, they develop sharper communication skills, gain insight into other areas of the University and sector, and expand their own network. They also learn through discussing issues with an alternative perspective.


If you have any questions, please contact us.