Mentoring – What is it?

We have a great guest blog post to share with you. Our contact Adrian Berwick (who is a freelance commercial HR consultant) has written this post for us to help all of us debunk mentoring:

The concept of mentoring is well known in business – but what precisely is it?

Mentoring is often defined as “a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the mentor’s professional and personal growth”.

Therefore – by default – a mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust. Or, perhaps, a mentor is a trusted advisor or guide or a person who has a sincere desire to enhance the success of others. So, it’s worth understanding a bit more about the benefits of mentoring…


Mentoring enables an individual at any level in an organisation to increase their network through the introduction to people and areas that they might not previously have had access to. Furthermore, mentoring can help individuals cope with periods of major transition and the mentor can help to navigate people through difficult challenges such as influencing key stakeholders, challenging existing mindsets – the status quo – and getting colleagues on board with change.

A mentor can also assist with identifying skills gaps which may be hampering career progression. At some stage in their career, most people will find themselves at a career crossroads which may manifest itself in them being overlooked for promotion or opportunities, or unable to understand why the business saw the need to recruit externally. In these situations, mentoring can offer an open and independent perspective as well as objective feedback.

Managing people can often be an area where people can benefit from mentoring. Good people and interpersonal skills are critical to career progression and a mentor can discuss management and leadership styles, ways to effectively engage with the team, improving cross-functional working as well as looking at the people agenda through transition and change programmes.

It is important to state that too often people say that if you want to scale the corporate ladder, you need a mentor. Mentoring will not work where it is non-negotiable – the person must genuinely want it and furthermore, if mentoring is only being undertaken for the purposes of paying lip service, it places an unfair and unrealistic dependency on the mentor.

Mentoring is highly dependent on the personal chemistry between the parties, who must both be committed to the process. A chemistry mismatch can occur for all sorts of reasons but, it must be a professional relationship and the process will lose sight of its goal if it becomes too comfortable where there is familiarity and a lack of challenge.

We all complain that time is our greatest challenge and too many people complain that there are insufficient hours in a day. Mentoring is an investment in time and blocking out time for sessions is essential – technology, particularly Skype, can assist where the parties are geographically miles apart, but nothing replaces real face to face engagement for a mentoring session.

We all like to focus on the positive and whilst mentoring is a process for moving forward, the process gives an opportunity to reflect on the past and sometimes, the mentor can share experiences from their career and the mistakes they may have made because the value in making a mistake is to understand what lessons can be learnt to prevent it recurring.

So in summary, whilst we understand the benefits of mentoring, what are the “absolutes”:

  1. Don’t do it for the sake of it – be committed to the process
  2. Invest time preparing for a session and in the follow-up actions
  3. Personal chemistry – it must be right
  4. Be clear what the purpose is
  5. Mutual respect

The benefits of being a mentor or a mentee can be huge. Best of luck with your journey.


AB Commercial HR Solutions offers HR support to business and can offer either advice or an informal “sounding board” – [email protected]