Is anybody there?

There’s no need to feel alone – there are plenty of places to find a mentor to fit your aims and ambitions

Perhaps the first question to ask yourself if you are seeking mentorship is ‘What exactly is mentoring?’ Mentoring is a 3,000 year old learning strategy and an important step in development, providing a platform for personal empowerment and self-directed growth. 

At its heart mentoring is a developmental relationship, typically between two people, a mentor and a mentee, who together build a mutually rewarding connection. It can be undertaken formally (using a structured programme) or informally. It provides a safe environment where a mentee can explore issues affecting their personal or professional goals but may also include matters such as work-life balance and building confidence.

Mentoring is an incredibly powerful tool embraced by individuals and business sectors as a key strategy to learn and develop.

Identifying a potential mentor

The second question is ‘What do you want to be mentored on?’ Being clear about the purpose will save you time finding a potential source of support. Other things you may need to consider now are: Is there a specific topic I wish to focus on? How much time am I willing to commit? What am I hoping to achieve? 

Clarity on these questions will make it easier to narrow down potential mentors. There are some great places to start searching.

Your workplace can be a great source of mentors, particularly if you are looking at the potential for growth into new areas of responsibility. You could ask colleagues to act as a mentor for you, ask them to recommend people in their networks or even suggest that your office sets up an in-house scheme. 

The benefits of this approach are that you gain specific support relevant to your experience and you can strengthen or build new relationships with colleagues. 

Your professional network is another good prospect. You may already have plans to meet a potential future mentor or know someone who could introduce you to one. If not, consider the members of your personal networks, for example LinkedIn, and if you go to face-to-face networking events consider colleagues you meet through them. Some groups feature one to one mentoring or host speed mentoring events (mentoring does not have to be a long term commitment).

Seeking support via your networks can be particularly effective if you want to develop new skills or need a completely objective perspective

One of the advantages of seeking support via your networks is the potential to link with someone not in your immediate circle and who may have a different background or skillset to you, so it can be particularly effective if you want to develop new skills or need a completely objective perspective.

Then there is your college or university. If you are studying you may find that your institution has a mentoring programme – these are often designed to support you through an educational programme. For example, some will provide the assistance of entrepreneurs to support the development of business skills or workplace mentors to assist those transitioning to the workplace for the first time. 

You can have more than one mentor. You may find that you have more than one goal or area you wish to focus on so it’s worth considering having different people with diverse backgrounds and experience to assist you. 

A great mentor can be younger, older or even the same age as you. If you’ve considered very carefully what you wish to achieve, let that guide you on whether an individual has the right experience or perspective to guide your journey to self-improvement. 

Mentoring programmes 

Formal mentoring programmes are excellent for those seeking a mentor from a particular background or with certain experience (or those wishing to become one). There are various mentoring styles on offer from one-off events to group and one-to-one mentoring.

One benefit of a formal programme is that you are placed with another individual who has already made a commitment to mentoring. Depending on the programme remit it can be an excellent way to connect with someone who is outside your network and may be experienced in a completely different discipline. 

The FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme, for example, which started in 2012, is pan-professional and aimed at built environment disciplines. It has proved to be a great way for those working in the same industry but from different specialisms to build an understanding of the construction industry at large or other roles and perspectives. 

Danna Walker is chair of Architects for Change, the RIBA’s equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group


 

MORE INFORMATION

RIBA Student Mentoring Scheme This is offered via the RIBA’s regional offices and designed to help students to become fully qualified architects. 

architecture.com

The FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme Developed by Architects for Change, the RIBA’s equality, diversity and inclusion advisory group, this supports individuals from groups under-represented in the construction sector at any stage of their career.

fluidmentoring.org.uk

Business mentoring Government-supported mentoring for all types of businesses including start ups.

www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/mentoring/

Women in Property (WiP) Membership organisation offering mentoring to women from a wide range of construction backgrounds.

www.womeninproperty.org.uk