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What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a highly valuable development activity implemented in many organisations. At the core of the activity is the relationship between the mentor and the mentee, where the development of the mentee is the key focus.

The development needs satisfied through the relationship can vary in focus from guidance on settling into a new organisation, performance improvement to career management. The main point with mentoring is that the focus is determined by the mentee. They must lead in identifying issues and, with guidance from the mentor, resolving them.

The mentor is not there to provide ‘the answers’, but to guide the mentee towards ‘the answer’ that is right for them. The mentoring relationship can be both short and long term. It may develop to focus on a particular issue or it may be one that lasts for years covering a range of issues.

There are many different definitions of mentoring and how it is defined will partly depend on the context, for instance whether mentoring is being carried out with an Education, Industry or Third Sector environment.

There are also many discussions around the differences between mentoring and coaching and, as these are used interchangeably in different organisations, it is useful to check the organisation's definition before becoming a mentor/coach.

The definitions here are not prescriptive in order that you can research a variety of definitions, reflect on their context and interpretations and decide which are relevant for your own circumstance.

Further Information

 A list of definitions collected by Anthony Gibbons on the Coaching and Mentoring Network website Useful to help mentees reflect on different aspects of mentoring

Everything you ever wanted to know about coaching and mentoring, and quite a lot that you probably didn't The difference between coaching and mentoring as defined by the Coaching and Mentoring Network

Mentoring Guidance Notes (Word Document) from Leeds University - designed to provide both parties involved in the mentoring process, the Mentor and the person being mentored, with some basic background information about mentoring to help ensure that the mentoring relationship is successful.

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education: This has very up-to-date articles and research on mentoring in education. It is on Emerald so you will need to check whether your organisation has access to articles or it is expensive! (A number of educational organisations do).

Introduction to Mentoring/Coaching course. A short introduction to Mentoring/Coaching course is offered by the Teacher Education team, Centre for Lifelong Learning at Warwick University.