There are many perceived obstacles to becoming a mentor or mentee. Together, Veronica and Sheilina have co-authored this article to provide insights into the mentor/mentee relationship and some of the associated dynamics. Mentor/mentee relationships are very unique (as are projects) and the focus is always upon the mentee and how they can grow/gain from the relationship. Often a secondary benefit is to the mentor, who gains perspective and is privileged to share elements of the mentee journey. The mentor/mentee relationships can be brief or protracted; they choose what they cover, how they discuss content and when the relationship is paused or concluded.
Steps to establishing an APM Mentor/Mentee Relationship
- Create a mentor or mentee profile and outline your aims for the programme
- Establish professional relationships of your choosing in a secure online space
- Engage with professionals of all experience levels and occupations
- Discuss and share knowledge across a wide range of specialist subjects
- Explore reverse mentoring opportunities to exchange skills and close generational gaps
Essentially, if you’re an APM Associate, full Member or Honorary Fellow, you can access mentoring services. Individual mentors provide insights into what they feel they can mentor in, together with some personal insights into hobbies etc.
It’s possible to select as many mentors as you wish and initial contact is facilitated through APM where you, the potential mentee, can send requests for mentorship. Ideally include in your profile:
- What you are seeking from a Mentor
- How much time you hope to share with a Mentor
- What your aspirations/outcomes from mentoring are
It's then up to the Mentor to review, respond and initiate a first call. If a potential mentor doesn’t respond this is likely due to their capacity or availability and if this happens, it’s best to revisit Mentor options and select an alternate individual.
If a potential mentor does respond, ensure you have an initial conversation to explore common values, language approaches and expectations. It’s beneficial to each party to be honest and open to set the basis for establishing a confident and psychologically safe environment for a mentoring relationship.
Your wellbeing is very important. If you find the relationship is uncomfortable or you are concerned about ethics or any other safety aspect, you can reach out to APM via email@example.com to seek support or clarification.
Mentee reported benefits include:
- Being able to choose a mentor from outside their industry
- No restriction on how many mentors an individual has
- Relationship is managed professionally between mentor/mentee
- They feel they can speak freely/confidently
- It encourages them to think more widely; expanding dimensions and perceptions
- Their assumptions are challenged
- They gain insights into their mannerisms, comfort language and demeanour
- Mentoring enables them to grow their interpersonal skills and confidence
- They have used mentoring in examples of commitment to learning in
- Mentees learn how to better support and guide their mentees in the future
- They are more thoughtful/insightful when engaged in performance reviews
Why have a mentor
Project/programme environments are challenging, full of variety and often hard. No matter how experienced a practitioner may be, there will always be something new to handle. Individual capability and confidence over time may vary wildly from super effectiveness to underperformance and all points in-between. Having objective counsel and feedback available can feel like a lifeline in a turbulent environment.
The very nature of project/programme processes may benefit from short-term focus, providing insights and observations that support the mentee. A mentor can help in guiding towards long-term strategy for their outcomes/deliverables; and a multi-faceted approach to individual career paths, rather than just today’s perceived problem. Having a mentor allows for incisive conversations, shared perceptions and a wider capacity to think about outcomes and solutions even if these are applied retrospectively. A good mentor/mentee relationship allows the mentee to develop/evolve and feel supported and challenged, as required.
An external mentor/mentee relationship can complement a corporate relationship and the benefits are often shared.
An internal mentor can guide through governance, values, corporate strategy and insights into opportunities within the mentee’s current role. While an external mentor can provide additional insights across industry sectors, organisations and local vs global perspective. There is no vulnerability in relation to organisational perception of a mentee and complete privacy to talk openly and share concerns.
How to select a suitable mentor
There are four key aspects to consider:
- Expectations – what you want, from whom and why?
- Scheduling – frequency of interactions, likely duration of mentoring relationship
- Compatibility – type of person, experience, approach; how will a mentor address your needs
- logistics – preferences around how you communicate, media, recordings and other Dimensions
The beauty of the APM members scheme, as opposed to any workplace schemes or mentoring relationships, is that it offers objectivity. There is personal control of who is contacted, and why.
There will be someone who talks the same language and will recognise, if not relate to, the particular situation of concern, but they have no professional investment — they are not part of the organisation in question and will not be interacting with its managers or colleagues.
They have no project/programme focused agenda; it really is all about the member facing the situation. It’s a forum that facilitates honesty and transparency and members of that forum do not have to agree with one another; if emotions heighten, they can be discussed and dissected without rancour.
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