Reflections on Mentoring

I work as a Research Librarian in Library Services at City University London. I have worked here since February 2013 and I am fortunate that my role is quite a new one and it is something that has the potential to be developed in different ways. My aim is to deliver Library support, collections, services and training to and advocate for research students and staff.

This year, I’m very grateful that with the support of our Library Leadership team, I have had some great development opportunities. I have had the chance to work on an employability project which is something that I am really interested in, attend and present a paper at LILAC conference and I am currently on the new CILIP Leadership Programme. 

It is great to receive training and development, but also it is also good to give something back to others. For the past 2 years, I have also had the chance to participate as a Postgraduate Mentor on the Professional Mentoring scheme at City run by my lovely and very supportive colleagues Thalia Anagnostopoulou and Taryn Ferris. I’m very grateful for these opportunities.

Since the Postgraduate mentoring programme started, I have had the privilege of working with 2 students from our MA/MSc Library & Information Science course #citylis. I have enjoyed a close working relationship with the Department since I started working here so it is really good to be able to work with individual students more closely. The #citylis news blog can be found here. This year, I worked with a #citylis student, Saidah Gilbert and you can read her very well written blog post about her experiences on the programme. Saidah is from Trinidad and Tobago and would like to work as a librarian and one thing we have in common is that we both love reading.

I find this definition of mentoring useful: “Mentoring involves primarily listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, encouraging” – David Clutterbuck (Gibbons, 2013).

To be a mentor, I don’t think that you have to necessarily be the most successful, dynamic managing director ever. You may be of course and there’s nothing wrong with success and ambition. I do think it’s important to have had some life experiences and possibly different jobs and careers that you can share. The fact that you are prepared to give up your time and effort and actually listen to and be committed to being fully present to a mentee for an hour or so is in my opinion, the most important thing. It is also the case that the mentee has also chosen to give up their time and has commitment to the process.

Mentoring is very rewarding but challenging because it’s not really possible to change a person as such or make them have goals that are not their own. People have to live their own lives, in their own contexts and learn their own lessons. Sometimes you just have to try something (eg different careers) to experience what is right for you. I think one of the challenges is actually to find out what the mentee actually wants to obtain from the process because he/she may not know or may not be able to express this. Sometimes, it may be at the last meeting when things become clearer. However, it’s not possible to generalise as everyone is individual and has a different life journey and career path. It is a hard lesson to learn but generally there are no right or wrong answers as such, there are just different choices. I’m told that Postgraduate mentoring is different to undergraduate as it is more about the person themselves and their development and choices whereas undergraduate may be more directive and give advice and guidance.

In terms of the mentor, I believe that it is by giving that we actually grow and find ourselves and receive. Regardless of what happens during the mentoring programme, I’m sure it doesn’t leave people unchanged, even in small ways and even if they may not realise it at the time. I would recommend both mentoring and being a mentee as an opportunity to learn about others and yourself in unexpected ways. I wish all of our mentees this year continuing learning and success in the future.

Gibbons, A. (2013) The Coaching and mentoring network . Articles. Available at: http://www.coachingnetwork.org.uk/information-portal/Articles/ViewArticle.asp?artId=54 (Accessed: 07/09/2015).

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