Whatever stage you are at in your career, working with a mentor or coach can be a great boost.
Professional coach and mentor Sarah Hind offers some thoughts about how to get the most out of mentoring / coaching. Sarah is currently coaching job seekers through the GoodJobs bursary scheme. She is passionate about mentoring and coaching and the benefits it can bring to both parties.
Have you ever talked your way through something with a friend or colleague or family member? Something you’re struggling to see clearly or a question you’re unsure about? Or are you more likely to be the one listening whilst someone else airs a question, explores an issue or thinks out loud?
Think about some of your recent conversations. How useful were they to you or the other person? Did you or they come out of the conversation with a new thought or a different perspective? Did the person talking, light up with enthusiasm or insight and see the next step ahead of them?
If you’re lucky enough to be having these kinds of conversations, keep them up. If not, then coaching or mentoring might be for you. Both provide a safe space in which to do active thinking. Done well, you’ll get an opportunity to discover something new or make a decision or move forward with a task.
Usually a mentor or coach is someone who is not your manager or a colleague. They are there to listen and offer impartial guidance, generally or on a specific goal you have. This might be to do with your day-to-day role or more widely to help you focus your job hunting or reach your career goals.
Coaching vs mentoring
Coaching and mentoring can overlap a great deal. Good coaches and mentors will use very similar approaches. However, a coach will guide you to use your own skills, knowledge and experience to move you forwards. A mentor is usually someone from your own sector or with direct relevant experience. They will use their experience to point you in the right direction and share successful strategies / tools or gaps in your knowledge. It can be especially useful to have a mentor if your manager is not a specialist in your area of work or you are taking on a new area of work. A mentor can also introduce you to a relevant network.
If you are puzzling over which is best for you then consider how specific your goals are to your career. If what you want to do is directly linked to your sector and your role, then a mentor from within the same sector or a similar role might be the right choice. If your goal is personal development generally, or how to manage a transition, or consider wider life goals, then coaching might be right.
Mentors gain many benefits for their own personal development so mentoring is a free option whereas coaching usually entails costs.
Finding a mentor or coach
If you are looking for a mentor, start with the professional bodies and associations. For example:
The advantage of these schemes is the support they can offer to both mentor and mentee.
Your own networks or online communities such as Charity Connect or LinkedIn can also help you find a suitable mentor or a coach who comes with recommendations.
These links are also useful if you are looking to become a mentor. Being a mentor is very rewarding. It looks great on your CV, helps you develop new skills and often you will learn as much from your mentee as they learn from you.
It can take work to get the most out of mentoring or coaching. The most important thing is that you click, that you understand each other and can work well together. Once you are sure you are a good match, then put time into each session to get the most out.
- Work out what you want to achieve through the time spent together.
- Take responsibility. Make the relationship equal, be open and honest and make sure you can trust each other.
- Prepare before you meet each time. You might want to set an agenda or share documents to read.
If you are a mentor, try to listen most of the time. Your input is not needed unless truly useful.
Sarah is kindly offering to coach three people for free. If you are currently registered with GoodJobs and would like to take up this offer of three 1-hour sessions over three months, please email support@GoodJobs.org.uk
Sarah's recent GoodJobs' clients said: "‘I like how you listen, but also offer feedback, thoughts and suggestions on things. You have helped to me focus my thoughts and ideas, but also offered me some useful links to assist further." Another person said: "Our sessions have helped me lots - they have focused me, motivated me and given me information."
Please say what you would like to get out of coaching sessions. We'll pass your details to Sarah and she'll make a decision about who to work with. This may involve a 30-minute call.
We're sorry that we can't support everyone. All sessions will be delivered by phone / video with some email contact in between.
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