In the business ecosystem we are in, the concept of mentoring plays an important role for us to map out a good career journey and take the right steps on our career path. Everyone has a different perspective on mentoring but the basic idea is that mentoring is a mutually cooperative effort that contributes to a person’s personal and career development.
While mentors may have a significant influence on their mentees, mentoring is not about managing or controlling another person’s journey entirely. Effective mentoring is about creating a collaborative learning process where both parties are committed to personal development. It doesn’t solely focus on a specific role or position.
Mentoring requires setting some basic ground rules. You need a mentoring agreement and the mentor and the mentee must decide on how to maintain their relationship to get the utmost benefit. There are several tools available for communication, but in order to have an effective meeting, the mentor should know some important facts and skills about mentoring, such as active listening, simulation and role playing, providing guidance - not direction, encouraging independence, remaining non-judgmental, sharing experience, feedback and advice.
But before going deep into the theoretical and practical stages of mentoring, the crucial success factor for both the mentor and the mentee is to identify the motivations for starting the journey together. You have to have a destination in mind; then you must have the motivation and determination to follow through on your plan.
Motivation is the key
Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, motivation helps you set your goals and create a solid foundation that will strengthen you during the difficult times of the journey. Once you identify your motivation(s), you will feel more prepared to handle your role and responsibilities.
While the basic processes of mentoring are very important, for now we will focus on your goals and motivation. Motivation comes from the heart and I agree with what Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, once said: ‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.’ That applies equally to the mentoring path as well.
First, let’s explore some key motivations for a mentee. Keep in mind that the mentoring relationship does not have to have a single purpose. Goals may vary depending on various factors, such as the mentee’s changing needs and whether the mentor was appointed or if they volunteered for the task. But the primary goal is the reason that motivated you to begin the journey in the first place. Let that motivating factor push you to continue the journey that you started.
One primary reason you can benefit from having a mentor is to advance in your career. You may feel stuck in your career and maybe you are not sure how you can move to the next level. Or maybe you are facing some difficult decisions in your career path. You may be at a crossroads, not knowing which way to go.
This is where a mentor can help you discuss different alternatives, ideas and plans by providing several resources and guidance to you. A mentor may have face with a similar situation before and they may share their experiences and wisdom to help you decide on the way to follow. Just remember that you are the final decision-maker, but you may feel confidence in knowing that your mentor is always out there to ask for advice or consult with.
So, the foundation of the mentorship is your relationship and your motivation. Now let’s look at how to be a good mentor.
What makes a good mentor
On the path to becoming a mentor, there is a fundamental journey you must follow to prepare yourself. Think about your own career and life experience. Who or what helped you through some of the difficult times you faced? How can you use that experience to help others who may be facing similar difficulties?
For me, being a good mentor first required me to learn how to apply the principles of mentoring in my own life. I took this step out of necessity, but this skill ultimately helped me to become a better mentor for others. Let me explain my need for mentoring before starting my career - and how motivation helped a 15-year-old successfully mentor himself with limited resources and support.
A journey begins
I was born in a small town of Trabzon, Turkey, on August 18 1984 - around the same time that the internet was being developed - and I completed my secondary education in Trabzon. By the time I reached high school, I had developed a keen interest in computers and technology and knew that I wanted to pursue that field of study. Unfortunately, the latest technology had not yet reached Trabzon.
Since I didn’t have internet and no mentor was available to guide me in the IT world, I followed innovations in technology from magazines and books. Obviously, there were obstacles to reach my goal; it would have been a lot easier with someone guiding me, but my motivation was strong. Motivation to follow my passion pushed me to search for a way to reach my goals.
One day, I read an article that changed my life. It was talking about IT training and certifications. At the age of 15, the information in the magazine gave me a path and I knew what I wanted to do, but I needed help to achieve it. I shared my plan with my family, and they agreed to support me in pursuing my dream of becoming what we now call a technologist.
After I got the support of my family, I had to determine how to achieve my goal. As I said, there was no such training in my town and no one to mentor me about the path I should take; however, with my limited access to information, I figured out some next steps, ordered the books and materials I needed and studied on my own.
Technology was my great passion and I was interested in open source systems and development; so at first, I taught myself a basic level of programming in Shell and Perl. Soon after that, I learned to program at a basic level in C. I learned a lot about open source systems and my self-taught skills were validated when I became the first person in my area to receive a professional IT certification at the age of 17.
After that, I became interested in security vulnerabilities and prevention for open source systems and I researched the basics of security. This technology was a deep dive for me, but I loved discovering new things. I understood the working logic of open source OS, but I was still an amateur software programmer. Then, I decided on my next goal: to become a certified software systems engineer.
Realising that I needed more formal education to reach that milestone (and again with the support of my family) I moved from my small town to the big city of Istanbul. There I was, alone at the age of 17, trying to adapt to city life with a need to make new friends - and a strong desire to follow my dreams to become a technologist.
Everything was new and exciting and, to be honest, a little bit scary - but I was determined to move forward on my chosen career path. I became a certified Software Systems Engineer at the age of 19 and that achievement opened one of the most important doors of my professional career. It helped me land my first job as a systems engineer at a technical university in Turkey in 2004.
Those early experiences taught me valuable life lessons. One is that motivation is the key to achieving your goals. Reading that magazine article when I was 15 helped me understand how to become a technologist.
At that time, I wished I had an IT professional who could guide and support me on my long journey to make the road easier for me, however, even though I had to take the hard path, my experience instilled in me a desire to help others pursue their career goals. Especially now, I recognise the value of a good mentor, because I’ve seen how it can have a positive butterfly effect on a person’s life.
You are very fortunate to have the BCS Career Mentoring Network, so enrol to become a mentor or find your mentor today. Let this be the article that changes your life.
Find out more about the BCS Career Mentoring Network (CMN)
The CMN is a robust development and empowerment tool connecting potential mentors with mentees and vice versa. It’s a process, driven and controlled entirely by you, for sharing knowledge and experience.
It takes just a few minutes to create your CMN account at bcs.org/mentoring (BCS login required)