Happy Friyay! I hope we’ve all had good weeks so far. I’ve got to say that I’ve really enjoyed my week; seeing England continue to deliver has been so refreshing, especially with the aide of Arsenal’s starboy Bukayo Saka #ItsComingHome. This week I also completed the Bridges programme, which I hadn’t known much about. This was after being given encouragement to sign up and I am very grateful that I did! For this week’s blog I will go over the various tools to aid your career and why they there’s no time like the present to start using them.
The most common career guide I feel is mentorship, so what is it? Mentorship is the influence, guidance, or direction given by a mentor. In an organizational setting, a mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee. I’d recommend having a collection of mentors, it does not need to be restricted to one, with a variety of fields and perspectives. One way of getting the most out of mentorship is being ‘active’ rather than ‘passive.’ Coming to sessions engaged, sharing talking points prior to the sessions to allow your mentor to prepare, and making notes to refer to from the session. Whilst I recommend having more than one mentor it is also important to be clear about what you’re looking to gain from each mentor. The advice I gain from a white mentor and black mentor can vary as the experiences aren’t always comparable, they will have different experiences.
Last week I referenced the importance of applying lessons learned, and this is the case here too. What a mentor offers are experience and perspectives that they have faced themselves professionally, academically or personally. These insights are beneficial for staff at any stage of their careers, so far, I’ve found the more I’ve advanced the more I gain from it. In part I think this is down to realising that mentorship can offer the tools for progression but it’s still up to me to take the steps to use those tools accordingly. One of the ‘tools’ provided to me through my mentor has been an expanded network; he has introduced me to several senior people of interest. They have gone on to further expand my horizons, giving insights on the latest project delivery methodologies trends.
Coaching is another career aid, though less common and popular, but what is it? Coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future. Coaches believe that the individual always has the answer to their own problems but understands that they may need help to find the answer. So what makes coaching less popular in contrast to mentorship? One is cost, mentorship tends to be free whereas coaching can come at a cost to the individual or organisation. Two is ambiguity and comfortability, coaching is less common, therefore less is known or understood about it. The lack of clarity can put people off pursuing coaching, and it requires a lot of engagement in the session. In the image above it shows the contrast between coaching and mentoring, with mentoring it’s much more guided, you’re talking to an expert. Whereas in coaching the sessions are more probing and the coach is not necessarily an expert in your field or general organisation, this pushes the burden on you to find the answers within. I’ve been coached, recently on the Bridges programme and I found both sessions to be beneficial, although the second more than the first as I was better prepared for it. If available to you, I’d highly recommend trying out coaching, it can be short term and is a great way of stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
- Here’s a list of typical coaching questions
As mentioned above I finished the Bridges course this last week and found it very rewarding. The course was 6 months, entailing workshops, group mentorship with senior BAME civil servants and two individual coaching sessions. I’ve touched on the coaching sessions above, but a key takeaway was to remain curious. The workshops held were interesting, with the topics being relevant to the workplace; these included Influencing Skills, Resilience, Limiting beliefs and many more. The sessions were informative and led to engagement from all, with each person giving their own project delivery examples. The highlight of the Bridges Programme for me was my mentorship group and the choice of senior mentor. The choice of senior mentor was great; he remained engaged throughout the process. He introduced members of the group to influential people as well as proving to be a personal example we could resonate with. He provided the tools we needed to progress, one of which was a career plan, which he reviewed and provided feedback on. To make the most of our time with him we came prepared as a group, completing the career plan for example, and bringing topics to our sessions. In next weeks blog I will discuss career aids further, touching on reverse mentoring, sponsorship and accountability partnerships.
Mentors also advocate on behalf of protégés, recommending them for leadership positions, pay raises, and communicating protégé accomplishments to senior management (Chao, Walz, and Gardner 1992 - “Formal and Information Mentorships: A Comparison on Mentoring Functions and Contrast with Nonmentored Counterparts,” Personnel Psychology 45: 619–36). The use of career aids and guides can be essential to accelerating your growth. Even if progression isn’t the goal being challenged can really expand our horizons.