Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Finding mentees

That might seem like a really odd title for a blog post, especially amongst all you Chartership mentees out there.

But having signed up to become a Mentor earlier this year (how is it February already? How can there already be an 'earlier this year'?), I discovered that getting Chartership candidates to find out that there's a new mentor available isn't as simple as it sounds.

I began by doing what CILIP told me to - adding my name to the spreadsheet of mentors that sits on the CILIP website. But as many of us know, that's not always that helpful. Because the list is massive. And out of date. So, as a Chartership candidate, you approach, say, 10 people on the list (of the ones you can find that are willing to take people in your area on and aren't full yet). All of them aren't willing to take you on, or have a full list. So you stop using the list as a source of information.

So where do you go? Where do I, as a new mentor, go to let you know I exist? My next approach was to tell anybody and everybody in my workplace that I was now a mentor. And tell them to tell everybody they knew. This had positive and negative outcomes. I did find a mentee - but they already worked in my organisation. I'm fine with that, and this particular mentee hadn't worked in my organisation for long - so I thought mentoring her seemed pretty sensible. But it hardly helps either of us to learn about the wider professional context (one of CILIPs criteria assessment, as you'll discover if you ever try to Charter) now, does it?

I then tried promoting the fact that I was looking for mentees on Twitter. My post got retweeted a couple of times, but it didn't get me any more mentees. It may be that I have the wrong people following me, but I follow a lot (mostly) library-based people and organisations, and I can't force them to follow me. I could tweet more, I guess, and make myself a more vocal Twitter user but, well, I don't, and I haven't, and I'm not sure I will.

The thing that finally got me a full mentee list was one of my colleagues, who is part of the CILIP South West Members Network Committee, responded to a query on a mailing list asking if anybody knew of mentors with spaces. That has led to me mentoring somebody in an entirely different sector to me, and even to a couple of requests for a mentor I have had to say no to, because I don't feel I have the time to take on any more people.

So, true networking at work there. But not exactly an obvious, and transparent, way for new mentors to get their names out there. I have had to put in a lot of effort to get this far, and I've only just begun to mentor people. All this when I know there are loads of people looking for a mentor out there, because in the past I've seen requests time and time again. Yes, it may be that there aren't enough mentors to go around, but it may also be that there aren't enough channels of communication that both parties are aware of, and are pointed towards.

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