By Captain Steve Rennison

Mentoring is a really valuable tool that can help you focus on what it is you want to achieve and to help you plan a pathway. This short article explains a little about the concept.

We all said last year that everything would be back to normal by the end of summer. Then by Christmas. Oh, slight delay. But by early spring. No, Easter. Well, one day… It’s tough enough dealing with on/off lockdowns, and it’s even tougher trying to project forwards your piloting career. If ever there was a time to quote “can’t see the woods for the trees” it’s probably now. However, help is always at hand. Have you ever considered linking up with a mentor? Moreover, do you know what a mentor is??

What is a Mentor?

The web is crowded with all sorts of descriptions about what a mentor is, but it’s not as they say, ‘rocket science’. A mentor is someone who you first and foremost trust to discuss life and work paths and problems with. That’s it in a nutshell. Maybe it’s easiest to look at some of the things a mentor is not meant to be:

  • A counselor.
  • A mental health advisor.
  • A financial advisor.
  • A problem solver.
  • A go-to person that saves you time doing your own research.
  • A coach.

Now that last one will raise some eyebrows I’m sure, but read on.

A Coach

No, not the National Express. I mean a Coach vs a Mentor. Let’s look at what a coach does. Again, plenty of very learned descriptions out there but a coach is someone who helps you with a specific relatively short-term task or goal. In its simplest form think of it like this: You could approach a work colleague or a friend and say “I have to complete a job at work but I’m useless with Excel. Can you give me some advice? What should I do to make the columns add up? What about creating a table?? HELP!”. So, in this case a coach can help you in a short-term very specific way. They may say “Let’s do some practice together, that may help”. In truth, it’s inevitable that a little coaching happens within mentoring, but understand it’s not the primary role of a mentor.

A Mentor

Given the above, it should come as no surprise then that a mentor is someone with who you form a long-term help relationship. Mentors are people who primarily should be able to listen to whatever it is that is bugging you and then, rather than offer solutions they should be able to offer guidance as to where you may find answers to whatever trees are blocking your view of the woods. A mentor will often throw things back at you: “So what is it about interviews that makes you so uncomfortable? What things might you do to try and break this mental block?”. That sort of thing.

Good mentors will help you look at things from a different angle, to let you get a fresh perspective and to actually help you understand what it is that you are really trying to achieve. Typically, they can be fairly senior people, but that is not at all a pre-requisite. They may have some relevant experience or be subject matter experts or simply people who are professionals (even from another industry) who can help you see what was always there in the first place (back to the woods and trees combo). Regardless of experience, they are however, good active listeners.

Some Mentoring Markers

When looking to start a process of being a Mentee and choosing a Mentor, some useful bullet points to remember:

  • It’s a long-term relationship.
  • It’s absolutely crucial for it to be a confidential arrangement.
  • Trust is needed, and honesty too – If you don’t click then find a different mentor.
  • It should be a relationship which is bound by agreed goals and agreed time frames.
  • Discipline is needed to adhere to timeframes – monthly meets or certainly every 2 months are probably initially needed.
  • You must be open with your mentor and they MUST listen.
  • Don’t be freaked out if a mentor suggests some ‘homework’ – it’s normal!

What can Mentors help with?

Well let’s take a step back again. If you remember that they are not there to solve all your problems for you, then you are off to a good start. So, what’s the point then? It’s simple. There are as I mentioned many super clever definitions on the subject, but for someone who likes to keep things simple like me, I prefer to call it bespoke brainstorming – because that’s what it really is. A mentor helps you to focus your thoughts and clear the mist. They listen first and foremost. That alone can often be enough to provide a solution to whatever mental block you have because talking and listening to yourself can bring about that lightbulb moment. Indeed, often we KNOW what the solution is but can tend to avoid that solution because it may be scary or a big commitment. Talking out loud can put that in perspective.

A mentor can pose questions back at you – “What precisely is it about this issue that is causing you a problem? Where else might you want to look for more information? How did you resolve a similar issue in the past?” – that sort of thing. Mentors can share their experience and experiences, and offer encouragement and help you prioritise. There is no fixed agenda. Gradually, over a few meetings, what tends to happen is you start to gain focus, and as you and your mentor get to know each other, that career change conundrum, that COVID related lack of confidence or that dive into self-doubt can start to all have a new and balanced perspective.

In Conclusion

None of this is about pride or an over-developed stiff upper lip. Mentors aren’t mental health counselors or off-duty Samaritans. They are professionals just like you who have a keen desire to help and to offer whatever perspective that they may have. Many mentoring relationships can go on for years and whereas it’s an exaggeration to call them a guardian angel, it’s a very reassuring position to be in when you know that you have a mentoring meeting scheduled and that you can vent a little, chat a little, get some ideas or affirmation and to have someone that you can trust. A mentor is not there to give you a simple fix, but someone who is able to give you hints and acknowledgment, and help you come up with a way forward. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that outside of aviation in the business world, mentors are a common and not particularly new concept. With all the downtime that many of us have, now may be the perfect time to consider mentoring.

We like to call it a flightpath to success. Contact us for more information about our free mentoring service:

Stay Safe and Good Luck!

If you would like to know more about how you can hone your interview skills, your CVs or your Competency Based Questions meltdowns, check out our services in the Career Marketplace, as we have a range of really good value programmes run by professionals that can give you an edge.

Lead Image Source: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in All Articles, Career Development, Wellbeing
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Captain Steve Rennison

Having spent 20 years in management and formulated and managed recruitment plans for several major airlines, I have seen how the system works first hand and know from experience how you can improve your chances in the aviation and non-aviation job market. I am a cofounder of Aspect Aviation and have flown the MD83, A330 and A320 series as well as the B767. The views expressed above are my personal ones based on this worldwide experience.


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