As a careers consultant, I’m often asked about ‘mentoring programmes’. These can be within a study context, to provide a role model, support and advice to enhance academic performance, or within a work-place context to accelerate work engagement and performance. There are several ‘organised’ mentoring programmes at Victoria such as Te Pūtahi Atawhai, Peer Writers, Te Rōpū Āwhina and the most recent addition, Alumni as Mentors. Some have a purely academic focus, some a work focus and others, like Awhina provide both academic and workplace preparation support.

Of course out in the wider community there are also other mentoring relationships that are about creating personal change to help an individual, for example a young person identified as ‘at risk’, to look beyond the hopelessness of a socially, educationally or economically deprived present, and see new possibilities, and opportunities to create a different future.

Organised programmes are great but it’s also possible to create a mentoring relationship for yourself. Look around you. Is there a star-performer out there? Someone who you have observed that you believe does their job well or exemplifies capabilities and behaviours that might serve as a role model for you? Someone who has a profile within their field or profession?  Don’t overlook potential mentors at university – academic or administrative staff or senior students.  Colleagues and managers in your past or present work-places may also make excellent mentors.

Potential mentors will also want to have a positive experience of being a mentor and therefore will have expectations of you as a potential mentee. So be mindful of the impression you are creating. With this in mind, approaching someone who already has a positive experience of you, makes sense. Or asking someone who knows you to recommend someone in their network that you could approach, could also work.

Aim to come across as someone who knows what they want from a mentoring relationship, someone who is motivated, organised, reliable and professional.  Remember mentors give up their time, and often make use of their personal and professional networks to their mentee – they won’t do this unless you seem worth investing in. Once they are committed to the relationship, mentors want to see growth and progress. Take notes when you meet, act on the information you’re given, report back, and celebrate successes.

When the mentoring relationship ends, say thank you. A small gift, and a thank-you card or email will always be appreciated.

Brian Clapp, Director of Content offers some great advice in his three-minute DVD, How to Find a Mentor (and why it is so important).