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Mentors, Mentees, and assorted other Mentalisms.

I've been very lucky in the mentors I've had in my career. In fact, extraordinarily lucky now I ponder on it. So I'm in the pomp workwise where I have enough experience to be able to mentor others, and have been doing so for about twelve-fifteen years. I don't mean mentoring some Neet with 'knife' in his eyes and on first name terms with probation officers.

I mean work-related mentoring of new or younger first and second job people. They are usually numerate and literate so you can pretty much do something at least with most of 'em.

Young lady who I've been mentoring for about four years turned out to be hellishly smart, a serious piece of news intellectually, and a really clever worker in that she thinks about the 'how' we'll do this task as much as 'what' we have to do.

So I've got a couple of decades experience on her in analytical roles of one kind, sometimes financial related, other times corporate intel and public affairs intel and a couple of other diverse things, which I guess is why the office wants me mentoring. The young lady has aced every damn challenge I can think of, and has done it for four straight years, progressing through grades like a metronome.

She drew the mentoring to a close herself, which is the way it should be to my mind, when she was checking on on a complex thing we always in our team relate to one another as a way of checking our thinking, and because there is a psychological trick which helps you to realise the answer to a problem, when you try to explain the issue to others. She wasn't sure about something in her own mind, so said 'Not sure how big the business was so I looked for trends in Net Asset Value over the last five years'...

The moment I'd dreaded. She's never been trained to look at NAV in company accounts. What it means is she has now got the framework to switch as an analyst from one sector into another, using analytical skills which work everywhere but only experienced analysts can do this.

The entry level: Junior Researcher/Researcher/Analyst (Can find you everything there is available on a subject/task)

Senior Research Analyst (Can act as a consultant to an internal client, helping them to set the parameters of the job, knows where to start and even more crucially when the critical information has been found, or can report adequately on why the info isn't available). Can get in and out of jobs fast, production usually clinical and high.

'Where do you want to go today'. Few enough in any sector, every organisation needs at least one person like this. I've occasionally crawled out on that plateau here and there but you'd expect that with my experience by now. The young lady I've been mentoring basically just sauntered past me and now knows the plateau is there. Seen it for herself and possibly clearer than I have.

Anyways. Sorry for the meander. Might as well make some vague paw at online dacency by asking if anyone else will have had experiences, trained others, been trained either well or badly, may have an opinion on the best way to mentor different people.

The experience is on my mind because I've been feeling like a parent who has watched a child leave the nest and go to university, and I've never had that experience but I do now get a tiny inkling of what the mix of happiness and sadness is like.
 
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Captain Con

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Probably the most satisfying part of my working life has been in mentoring. Been lucky to have some very good people to mentor which makes the difference. Half the battle with anything I think is coaxing the person involved into being comfortable as themselves in learning. This might sound a small thing but in one to one mentoring if you don't find that comfortable zone where there are lots of questions going back and forth then it is impossible to create artificially.

Basic mentoring skill number one, the one without which you can do little, is setting up the mentee to being comfortable and at ease in the transfer of information.
 
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Captain Con

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Best result of all is when the mentee brings the mentor/mentee relationship to a close in the best possible way by adapting what they've learned and contributing back something the mentor didn't know or didn't realise.

That's the graduation point where someone with say five years experience at something I've been doing for twenty years stops being a mentee and is then considered a peer. Age doesn't matter. Gender certainly doesn't.
 

Jad

Member
Mentoring was invaluable to me when I first entered the world of work. As a newly graduated examiner I didn't think I knew it all, but I figured that what I didn't know would soon come to me if I thought about it hard enough. That was never going to fly in the organisation I worked in. It was made pretty clear to me that all my work would have to be signed off by a supervising officer until I was considered fully competent. I was a bit miffed by this at first. It felt a bit like being back at school.

Our lab was managed by a Professor of Chemistry whose previous job had been as a senior lecturer at Bristol University. We just called him "The Prof". He put me under the wing of somebody who had worked there for nearly ten years, and whose academic specialism was Forensic Pathology. I bridled a little. What did he know about molecular genetics..?? Quite a lot actually, as it turned out.

It didn't take long, working at the "coal face" as he called it for me to discover that a little humility goes a long way. I found that you carry on learning long after you've graduated.

Another form of mentoring that I benefited from was the "helpful colleague". The woman who maintained our evidence, equipment and logistics store wasn't a graduate of any kind, but she'd been there since the 1960s when the unit was first ever set up. She'd seen it all. "Auntie Sue" as everybody called her was a lovely woman and her kettle was always boiled. When I first couldn't get any prints off an item of clothing, using a cyanoacrylate fuming box, and my head was spinning from superglue fumes that had escaped and gotten up my nose. She sat me down in her cumfy chair, made a cup of tea and told the Prof I would be out of circulation for a while. He understood. Auntie Sue was always there to talk to. And she always had jaffa cakes. Priceless.

Fast forward a number of years and an (enforced) career change which resulted in me going into the teaching profession. This time I was rather nervous on my first day. They did ease me in gently but there was still that first occasion of taking a class on my own and trying to put myself across as nerveless and confident when I was squirming inside. But it turned out fine.

The closest I've ever been to being a mentor myself was in Sixth Form, as a prefect. It seemed that the Lower Fourth year in particular seemed to make a bee line for the Sixth Form Common Room whenever I was trying to prepare for an A Level mock exam or something similar. Grrrr... But it's a valuable learning curve and when I think of it now, there were a few similarities in what I did then, to what my mentor at the Camborne Lab did for me years later.

I'd happily mentor somebody who was coming into work for the first time. It's "giving something back." I needed the help of others when I was starting out. I think I have an obligation to do the same for the next generation.
 
"Assorted other".......I see myself as having been lucky.

Reading through, I must say I wonder at the sheer negativity and critical attitude when those who could be called "spiritual" mentors are mentioned here on this forum.
 
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Captain Con

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Maybe we are moving into the post 'spiritual guide' age. Hopefully anyway. It would be nice to read some books without turning page after page looking for an enlightenment that is not external in the first place. Or feeling the need for an emotional Virgil at the gates of the underworld with the necessary lamp.

Gets a bit boring after a thousand years of it.
 
Maybe we are moving into the post 'spiritual guide' age. Hopefully anyway. It would be nice to read some books without turning page after page looking for an enlightenment that is not external in the first place. Or feeling the need for an emotional Virgil at the gates of the underworld with the necessary lamp.

Gets a bit boring after a thousand years of it.
Enlightenment is a bit overated in the first place. Many "mentors" deflate the entire concept. But yes, I tend to favour the less didactic writers, Merton for instance, rather than the Osho's of our world.

My own attitude is summed up in the words penned by Robbie Robertson from his song "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"......" Just take what you need and leave the rest".

(Of course, there is always a catch......the next line is:- "But they should never have taken the very best". How do we ever know what is the best? Yet as another mentor of mine, Dogen writes:- "Therefore, if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place." )
 
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