What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a learning relationship between a mentor and mentee, aimed at supporting the mentee’s career development by building their knowledge, skills and understanding.
Mentors act as role models for their mentee and help them to reach their goals.
Mentors may develop their mentees by advising and supporting them, and also by opening doors and helping them make new connections.
Mentoring vs coaching
Mentoring is sometimes confused with coaching. Coaches use specific questioning techniques to unlock someone’s potential, whereas mentors may help and advise their mentees in a range of ways.
While coaching is usually a shorter term relationship with a specific goal in mind, mentoring is more likely to be a longer term relationship.
How a mentor can help you
A mentor can help you reach your goals at any stage of your career, by supporting you to learn new skills, overcome challenges at work and develop your confidence.
They may also help you to identify career paths you hadn’t considered before or encourage you to make links with like-minded colleagues.
Beyond the personal benefits, embracing mentoring is a fantastic way to develop the speech and language therapy profession as a whole.
Where to find a mentor
Finding the right mentor depends very much on your career stage, goals and personality. Look to your wider networks and identify people you admire and respect, who have skills and qualities you would like to develop yourself.
You may choose to have a number of mentors who you approach for different types of advice – some who are similar to you in terms of their clinical field and interests, and some who bring very different perspectives.
If you want to find a mentor from within the profession, joining an RCSLT Clinical Excellence Network or RCSLT Hub is an ideal place to start – doing so will provide many opportunities to meet and get to know potential mentors.
Having conversations on social media (for example on Twitter) is another great way to extend your network and identify potential mentors.
Avoid choosing a mentor you work very closely with, as that might make discussing sensitive issues difficult. Equally, avoid approaching someone you don’t know at all. Get to know your potential mentor first, for example by joining an RCSLT network.
The most important thing is to find a mentor who will challenge you and help you to see new ideas and opportunities – and to make sure the chemistry feels right to both of you.
You’ll want to have an initial conversation to see whether the fit works for both of you before you decide to go ahead.
We can learn just as much from people who have a different perspective, however long they’ve been in the field.
Traditionally mentors are more senior/experienced, but we want to challenge that through what has been called reverse mentoring. Even if your mentor is less experienced than you, they can still help you to navigate new challenges.
Becoming a mentor
You can develop your own leadership skills by offering to mentor colleagues that you have got to know.
As a mentor, there is an opportunity for you to develop new skills and learn from the mentoring experience – whether you are a student, a retired speech and language therapist or anywhere in between.
The RCSLT aims to grow a culture within our profession where every member is mentoring at least one other person, whatever stage of their career they are at.
RCSLT leadership mentors
One way to seek support with particular challenges, such as service transformation, is by contacting an RCSLT leadership mentor.
RCSLT leadership mentors are members who are experienced leaders and are happy to support and guide other members in any speech and language therapy role and setting. They can provide support with change and service transformation.
Get help from a leadership mentor
Visit our leadership mentors page to find out how a leadership mentor could support you.
Apply to be a leadership mentor
A leadership mentor can be any member with experience of leading. It’s a great chance to give back to the profession while working towards your own CPD.
Visit our leadership mentors page to find out how to become a leadership mentor.
Resources for mentors
- The NHS Leadership Academy’s coaching and mentoring register
- NHS Return to Work mentoring programme
- NHS ethical mentoring programme – mentoring specifically around ethical challenges and issues (please note there is a cost for non-NHS staff)
- NHS Leadership Academy coaching and mentoring toolkit
- NHS Leadership Academy ‘Habits of a good mentor‘
- Balance Careers: the role of a mentor and the eight habits of a good mentor
- MentorCliq: the seven types of mentor
- TedTalks: how to be a good mentor (playlist)
- MindTools: mentoring
- Simon Sinek videos:
Resources for mentees
- Forbes: how to be a great mentee
- NHS Education Scotland: mentoring handbook
- Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: guidance for mentors and mentees
- NHS People: finding a mentor
- Educause: 10 quick ideas for becoming a more effective mentee.
- TED Ideas: are you mentorable?
- LinkedIn: meaningful mentorships