On the 15th September 2016, I sent an email to someone at work, explaining what Mentoring was. This was before I had really done much research into it, before I had been Mentored myself, and during the 'selfish' time when I wanted to create the programme for my own benefit. As you can imagine, my idea of Mentoring was slightly off... Have a read:
''Say I wanted to become a Client Manager. I may want to know what qualities or skills I need (that I can't find on any official job specs or alike), or what a day in a life of a Client Manager looks like. I may just want to know if I would be able to do it. So I would look at which Client Managers have agreed to be Mentors, I would approach one of them, and we would have informal discussions/meetings to help me on my way.
So if you agreed to the scheme, you could be my Mentor. I would ask you any questions I may have about the role, you can give me advice, and it would be an ongoing relationship so if you spotted any behaviours that needed to be changed, or heard of any opportunities you think might help me, you can let me know''.
As you can see, I had a rough idea of what Mentoring was, but I was fixated on the smaller picture of learning about a role, rather than everything else Mentoring could do. When we started the Mentoring Programme at work, we always wanted to focus on the bigger picture stuff, but during my research I discovered that were other Mentoring types and methods. Turns out, What I had described in that email (without realising) was Role Mentoring.
Role Mentoring is more focused that traditional Mentoring. It involves guidance and advice from the Mentor and clear goals and expectations from the Mentee, but it focuses on the Mentor's current job role and the path they followed to get there. A Role Mentor can offer a Mentee some real life, realistic guidance with regards to getting into a specific role and then making it a success.
Role Mentoring is appealing for Mentees who perhaps haven't achieved what they have wanted to yet, and want to know what they could do to make things happen for them, in the way of learning OPPORTUNITIES, gaining certain experience, and further training. It's something that I believe Mentees who are just starting out in their careers should seek out wherever possible because it can help give them some specific goals and help structure the years ahead.
One of the notable benefits of Role Mentoring is that it doesn't require a huge time commitment from either party. Instead of organised weekly/monthly meetings over a long time period like traditional Mentoring, Role Mentoring can occur within a shorter time frame. Part of the reason for this is that the goal for the Mentee is quite clear and concise - learn how their Mentor got to where they are now, and learn about the role they are currently in. It's similar to a coaching or training session in that respect, so it can be fairly easy to structure. Traditional Mentoring on the other hand can be quite the journey and cannot be structured in the same way.
Role Mentoring might naturally occur within a traditional Mentoring relationship, but only if you both steer it in that direction. During the programme we created at work, we advised our Mentors and Mentees to try and avoid focusing so much on the Mentor's role because we didn't want them to miss out on the larger benefits of the programme. However, talking about how a Mentor got to where they are, the challenges they faced on their journey, and the responsibilities they now have and how they tackle them, is completely normal. The key is to not focus on the details, like Role Mentoring would.
A great way to distinguish between the two is this;
Traditional Mentoring: A Mentor will talk to the Mentee about their past job roles, what they learnt about themselves, Positive and negative experiences from their past roles, how they influenced who they are now, and how the lessons they've learnt are applied in their current roles. Perhaps they lost a job 10 years ago because they didn't take it seriously and didn't recognise opportunities for further growth within it. Now they make sure this doesn't happen again by always taking ownership of their role and seeking out new ways to improve their skills.
Role Mentoring: A Mentor will talk to the Mentee about their past roles in detail. They will list their core responsibilities, and talk about the training they went through to improve their ability to handle said responsibilities. They will talk about their decisions when choosing/applying for new job roles and what skills they looked to gain and work on whilst in them. They will talk about their goals for the future and how they intend to achieve them, and they'll talk about their current role and what a typical day in their life looks like.
The goal for the Mentee in both scenarios is to absorb what the Mentor says and apply what is relevant in their own lives. One is just more specific and focused than the other. The content is different but the outcome is the same.
Another common use for Role Mentoring is during a job induction or as part of a training period. In this scenario, our Mentee will have just taken on a new job role, and as well as learning about their new responsibilities on paper, they will speak to a Role Mentor who is in the same position/was in the same position. This is a more direct form of training, but it follows the same sort of structure as discussed above.
I hope this blog has helped you to understand the differences between Mentoring and Role Mentoring. Let me know in the comments below if you've experienced Role Mentoring before, or if this is something you hadn't thought about before but it's something you'd be interested in.
There are other types of Mentoring which I will talk about in later blogs, so make sure you sign up for Enhance Mentoring's newsletter below to find out more.