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What if there was a technique you could use that would improve job satisfaction and confidence and help your team members perform at their best? And what if it didn’t cost a penny?

Mentoring is a form of training that is being used by many professionals in medical and veterinary fields and for good reasons. Mentoring is a technique that helps both mentor and mentee. The mentee gains by talking to an experience adviser who will listen to them, support them, guide their thinking and give feedback.

Mentors benefit from having their own practices and thinking challenged and the necessary reflection needed to be an effective mentor can also help put things into context. Hearing a different perspective and understanding another person’s motivations can provide a better insight into the thinking of team members and help mentors become better leaders.

Those returning to work after a break, new graduates or anyone looking to take the next step in their career or a new direction, can benefit from being mentored.

If you have ever wanted guidance from someone who understands your professional dilemmas, or perhaps felt the need to help someone else benefit from the experience you have gained throughout your career, then it might be time to think about mentoring.

Who can mentor?

While some corporates have introduced mentoring programmes, there are no formal veterinary mentoring schemes accessible by the whole profession in the UK. In the US, the AAHA has produced a mentoring toolbox. Other professions have recognised the benefits and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has some great resources, as well as a mentor database to match mentors and mentee. For the pharmacists, mentoring is also one of the key competencies required to progress to advanced levels of qualification – which provides an additional incentive.

When choosing a mentor opting for someone whose thinking is too close to your own may be comfortable but less useful. It can, however, be useful to have a mentor who has faced similar challenges to the mentee – so female mentees may benefit from a female mentor.

In theory any experienced professional can mentor a colleague. In reality they need to be able to listen and have a degree of emotional intelligence or empathy. A mentor may suggest several solutions in an unbiased way and help the mentee to arrive at their own conclusions, rather than dictate a certain course of action.

Mentoring will be more effective if a mentoring contract or agreement is put in place – it shouldn’t just happen on an ad hoc basis. The agreement should define what the mentee wants to get out of the process, what degree of confidentiality is expected, which elements are included, which are out of scope and what the end result looks like. Sessions should also be scheduled in advance.

Mentoring does deal with the whole person, so personal goals, work-life balance and future aspirations might all be discussed with a mentor. It is commonly the case that it is difficult for a direct line manager to mentor members of their team – although there is scope to give constructive feedback it is also important to have a non-judgemental attitude.

That means that finding a suitable mentor is not always easy in a small practice. In the absence of other alternatives, peer mentoring can provide a useful sounding board and this might be an option for new graduates within their year group.

How to mentor

A mentoring session should be structured –the GROW frameworkis most commonly advocated, meaning the Goal or purpose of the session needs to decided first, followed by the evidence gathering Reality phase, then all Options are discussed before a course of action or Will is decided upon. To give the mentee confidence in carrying out the action any potential obstacles are discussed, as well as the support the mentee might need to implement the action.

We also have a coaching/mentoring process available to download by clicking on the link.

Why mentor?

The positive support and encouragement a mentor can give shouldn’t be underestimated. As mentors, leaders can gain new perspectives and learn something about their own strengths and weaknesses.

Mentors are often motivated by the desire to ‘give something back’. Being able to share what we have learned is a good way to validate our hard-won knowledge and experiences and it might be something that those approaching the end of their career or recent retirees might want to consider.

Other than time, mentoring is a free form of CPD and as it values both parties it represents great value for money.

Would you consider being a mentor? Do you think you could benefit from having a mentor? Would you like see a mentor matching service or tools on Vetpol? Let us know!

Further reading