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How to solve a career dilemma in six minutes: the power of speed mentoring

Four women. Six minutes. One career dilemma. Three very different proposed solutions – and one action agreed on. It’s mentoring, but not as you know it.

Mentoring – regular support and guidance from a senior person in your field – is a hugely valuable experience. It’s widely recognised to be one of the key ways that people grow and develop in their careers. From being told the unwritten rules for promotions, to encouragement about taking on new challenges, mentoring has a lot to offer. But good mentors can be hard to find.

That’s where speed mentoring and peer mentoring come in. In speed mentoring, people tackle a career problem in 10 minutes or less. You’ll meet a range of people, set out your dilemma, and they’ll offer you a range of possible next steps. It’s like speed dating, but actually useful.

Peer mentoring involves working with someone at the same level of experience as you, rather than someone more senior. You’ll probably take turns to set out your goals and challenges, and you’ll learn as much by suggesting new possibilities as from hearing them.

And peer speed mentoring? It’s exactly what it sounds like – bringing together peers to discuss career goals and offer alternative viewpoints at speed.

December’s AWISE gathering brought members together to share their experiences and their insights in a peer speed mentoring session. Being AWISE at Christmas, there was of course plenty of cake, mulled wine and coffee.

I was amazed at how much I learned, first from setting out my current career conundrum to the other women, and then from responding to their questions. One member of my group had just retired, and her personal insights into moving to a more senior position made me question my assumptions. Other group members were at the start of their careers, and their energy and enthusiasm filled me with energy in turn. I even got an email the next day, to check that I had indeed taken the action I’d promised the group!

We concluded by gathering together the most useful thoughts from around the room. Here they are:

  • “Just do it” – take the leap and do the thing you’re scared of
  • Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty
  • Value differences – yours and those of others
  • It’s okay not to like a colleague. You can respect them, but you don’t have to like them.
  • List your strengths and achievements, and be very clear in your mind about what they are.
  • Use networking opportunities
  • Actively work to build your self-confidence and your awareness of your strengths.

We ended with Belinda’s declaration of the three key elements for career fulfilment: autonomy, mastery and purpose. If your job has a purpose you believe in, if you have mastery over the skills and knowledge you need to do it, and if you have the freedom to set your own ways of working, you are likely to be not only very happy, but extremely successful. Follow Belinda’s example – if your current role doesn’t offer you all three elements, then look for a job that fits you better.

IMG_0610If mentoring sounds valuable, think about joining Mentor SET – either as a mentee, or as a mentor. If you’re towards the middle of your career, think about joining as both!

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