It’s not managing. It’s not training. Mentoring occupies a unique space in workplace professional development and benefits not just those being mentored, but their mentors too. Circular magazine’s editor Ian Farrell finds out more from Current and past CIWM Presidents, Anna Willetts and Dr Adam Read.
Mentoring is a great way for professionals to learn key skills and knowledge from those with more experience in their sector. It’s something that’s happened in the resource and waste industry for a few years now, with CIWM leading the way with its online portal that matches up those seeking experience with those offering it.
But what does mentoring involve? What kind of commitments are required? And what does one gain from such an arrangement?
All good questions to consider before entering the commitment of a mentoring relationship, because it is a commitment – from both sides.
For those being mentored, the advantages are clear: learn from a more experienced person in your industry who has already travelled some of the roads you are currently trying to navigate. It’s important to note that this is not the same as being managed – nor is it a training course.
In fact, it’s hard to sum up how being mentored will feel, since every experience is unique – one of its strengths and a major reason for doing it.
I love mentoring and have been helping people through CIWM chartership for over 15 years.
For the uninitiated, it might not be so obvious what the mentors themselves gain from the process. How can giving away valuable information and experience help you in your professional life? But ask any mentor why they do it, and it will quickly become obvious that it isn’t about charity.
Mentors gain valuable experience too: learning to see things from other points of view, staying up-to-date on the subject matter and making valuable contacts in parts of their sector with which they might not otherwise interact.
Broadly speaking, mentoring can be divided into one of two types: active or passive. In an active mentoring relationship, the mentor might question and challenge the mentee – even pushing them on some topics, as appropriate within set boundaries.
In contrast, passive mentoring is more about being a sounding board – leading a mentee towards making decisions themselves and supporting them while they do so. This style of mentoring is about encouragement and can suit those who need their confidence bolstering.
It’s important when entering a mentoring relationship to consider from which of these two approaches you would derive the most benefit – or which you are best placed to offer.
For mentees, it’s vital to establish what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship (such as technical knowledge, presentation skills and management experience) and convey this with absolute honesty to your mentor. Openness and candour are essential – as is confidentiality. You should aim for an air of absolute trust between mentor and mentee.
I wish I’d had that (a mentor) when I was starting out as a consultant and a lawyer.
Boundaries and ground rules are also important to set early on. Understand each other’s role and establish what to expect from each other. Mentors should make it clear they cannot be an expert in absolutely everything and everyone makes mistakes. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and agree on a contact strategy: how often will you speak, and by what method?
Mentoring is an excellent way to advance your professional life – whether you’re the mentor or the mentee. If you’d like to know more about how CIWM can help you on your journey, head to the CIWM mentoring platform to discover your next steps. ●
Find out more about mentoring at ciwm.onpld.com.
Why be a mentor?
Current and past CIWM Presidents, Anna Willetts and Dr Adam Read, are among those who’ve greatly enjoyed being mentors, both citing the satisfaction that helping others in the industry has given to them.
“I love mentoring and have been helping people through CIWM chartership for over 15 years,” says Read. “I really enjoy seeing them progress and I love the challenge of staying current – a requirement when mentoring people who aren’t involved in my own day job or don’t work for my employer, Suez.”
He adds: “I really like to see my mentees making waves in the sector, getting more actively involved in working groups and other CIWM activities.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Willetts. “I like to feel I am helping someone feel more confident and help them understand that they’re doing all the right things,” she says. “Sometimes, when you’re new to an industry, you can feel some self-doubt and nervousness. It’s nice to provide advice, or just listen if that’s what’s required.
“I’ve only been mentoring for a little while, but I love it so far. It’s been great to share lessons – both as a CIWM member and as a lawyer. I wish I’d had that when I was starting out as a consultant and a lawyer. I would definitely recommend it.”