Mentoring involves a voluntary process where one person offers their time to support a mentee. The goal is to provide confidential, non-judgmental, and constructive assistance, aiding the mentee's development as they see fit. A mentor serves as a sounding board, helping the mentee navigate challenges and gain clarity.

Who is a Mentor?

Typically, a mentor has faced similar challenges or holds a more senior role in the same profession. However, they should not be in a current hierarchical relationship with the mentee. A mentor offers objective guidance, drawing from their experience to help the mentee find solutions.

Different from Coaching

While mentoring shares similarities with coaching, mentors often possess direct experience in the mentee's field. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on skill-building without direct expertise. Mentoring encourages the mentee to take ownership of their development.

Clarifying Mentoring's Role

Mentoring does not replace other forms of support like supervision or performance reviews. The mentor does not act on behalf of the mentee but guides them in decision-making and reflection. It's the mentee's responsibility to take action, with the mentor providing guidance where needed.


Are you looking to:

  • Expand your influence?
  • Transition to something new?
  • Enhance your current role?
  • Navigate the start of a new position?

If you're:

  • Willing to reflect on your approaches
  • Open to new perspectives
  • Ready for change
  • Committed to active participation
  • Interested in finding your own solutions with guidance

Then, mentoring could be beneficial for you.

Deciding between a senior or peer mentor?

While a senior mentor is typical, peer mentoring can also be invaluable, offering diverse experiences and support at your level. Peer mentoring fosters a sense of camaraderie and understanding among colleagues facing similar challenges, enhancing mutual learning and growth. On the other hand, a senior mentor brings extensive experience and wisdom, offering insights into navigating complex career paths and organizational dynamics.

Mentoring Formats

Mentoring is usually a one-to-one relationship, but there are alternatives:

  • Share a mentor with other mentees for mixed senior and peer insight. This collaborative approach allows mentees to benefit from diverse perspectives while fostering a supportive learning community.
  • Form a mentoring group with peers, rotating roles as mentor and mentee. Group mentoring offers a dynamic environment for knowledge exchange and peer support, encouraging collective problem-solving and skill development.

Formal vs. Personal Arrangement

Opting for a formal scheme or personal arrangement?

  • In a scheme, you may be assigned a partner, with support and a set duration. Formal mentoring schemes provide structure and guidance, ensuring mentees receive consistent support and resources to facilitate their development journey.
  • Personal arrangements offer flexibility, allowing mentor and mentee to set their own terms. This approach empowers individuals to tailor their mentoring experience according to their unique needs and preferences, fostering a more personalised and impactful mentoring relationship.

Mentoring Approach

Embrace a coaching style:

  • Effective mentoring involves active listening, empowering mentees to drive their own development. Mentors should adopt a coaching mindset, encouraging mentees to explore their goals, challenges, and potential solutions.
  • Mentors should keep personal agendas aside, taking a non-directive approach for optimal results. By creating a safe and supportive space for mentees to reflect, explore, and grow, mentors can empower mentees to unlock their full potential and achieve their career aspirations.

Spectrum of Mentoring Approaches

In any mentoring partnership, both mentor and mentee share responsibility for its success. While mentors may have a preferred style, mentees can also express their preferences and needs for guidance. For instance:

Joe's Scenario: Joe, embarking on a new role, seeks support to navigate the initial challenges. Aware of past pitfalls, Joe wishes to avoid assumptions and embrace a more observant approach. He can request a mentor who adopts a coaching stance, facilitating reflection and inquiry to ease his transition. Joe's goal may simply be to feel confident in his new role within three months.

Sarah's Scenario: Sarah, midway through a research assistant position, feels overwhelmed by future career prospects. To streamline her decision-making process, she seeks a mentor who can provide goal-oriented guidance. Together, they set clear objectives, such as evaluating various options and setting interim goals for career advancement. Sarah's overarching aim is to make an informed career decision, supported by concrete milestones and progress markers.



Independent Approach

If you've identified a potential mentor independently, it's essential to approach them thoughtfully. Clearly articulate your goals, motivations, and reasons for seeking their guidance. Detailed guidance on initiating mentoring relationships and key considerations can be found here.

Remember, mentors need not always be senior figures; peer mentoring offers valuable opportunities and may be easier to establish. Consider setting up "thinking pairs," a concept outlined by Nancy Kline in Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind. This method fosters equality between partners and is well-suited to peer mentoring. You can find instructions for ‘thinking pairs’ sessions online, for example by the Organisation Development agency or Southampton University. Thinking pairs is particularly well-suited to peer mentoring as the principles of the ‘Thinking Environment’ ensure equality between the partners.

When establishing an independent mentoring arrangement, draft an informal agreement outlining:

  • Meeting frequency
  • Expectations of each other
  • Confidentiality protocols
  • Communication channels (e.g., face-to-face, email, phone)
  • Meeting locations (ensuring privacy and comfort for both parties)
  • Review and conclusion processes
  • Any other pertinent agreements

Through Formal Schemes

Many departments, faculties, and divisions offer mentoring schemes that provide structured support. Joining these schemes can be advantageous, as they offer organiser support and opportunities for shared learning among mentees.

Through Organisational Support

If you're unsure where to find a mentor or lack specific preferences, seek assistance from your line manager or departmental HR. They can offer insights into suitable mentoring arrangements or connect you with relevant resources within your department, faculty, or division.

To get the most out of your mentoring, clarifying your expectations is crucial. Ensure that you distinguish mentoring from training or counselling, focusing instead on personal and professional development. Reflect on your objectives for mentoring and remain open to new perspectives and insights.

Active Participation

Upon entering a mentoring relationship, commit to active engagement. Challenge your assumptions, attend scheduled sessions diligently, and follow through on agreed-upon actions. Provide your mentor with constructive feedback, highlighting aspects that are particularly beneficial and areas for improvement. Dedicate time to reflect on your learning journey and progress.

  • There is a range of videos, reflecting a variety of viewpoints, on LinkedIn learning: search for ‘Mentoring’
  • POD have launched an e-learning resource, 'Mentoring for Development' which we hope will provide a useful introduction to mentoring for any staff member who is new to it or a refresher for anyone who has been involved in the past: Mentoring for Development (E-learning course) (
  • Cox, E., Bachkirova, T. and Clutterbuck, D. (Eds) (2014). The Complete Handbook of Coaching. London: Sage
  • Megginson, D., Clutterbuck, D., Garvey, B., Stokes, P. and Garrett-Harris, R. (2006) Mentoring in Action. London: Kogan Page
  • Kline, N. (1999) Time to think: listening to ignite the human mind. London: Ward Lock 


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