Skip to main content Skip to footer
Post header Skip post header

A guide to developing great mentoring relationships in the Johnian community

Posted on Jul 2

6 min read

Career Events & News

A great mentoring relationship can boost your confidence and challenge your assumptions, and it has the potential to transform your life. Here are our tips for making a connection within your alumni community. You can also read about the personal mentoring experiences of 3 alumni.

What is the purpose of mentoring?

Mentoring relationships within the alumni community can be as tactical or strategic as you want them to be. You may choose to tackle a distinct challenge over a limited period of time or return to the relationship continually over a longer period for guidance and support as your career transforms. Examples of what you might discuss with a mentor include:

· Insights on working in a specific industry;

· Market trends and the current operating environment in a specific industry;

· Personal marketing to get help you get the job you want;

· What it’s like to work in the mentor’s organisation;

· How to take the next step, including acquiring valuable experience, developing your CV, making your voice heard in your organisation, and affecting organisational change;

· Supporting you through management and leadership;

· Changing career, transferable skills, or going freelance;

· Setting up your own business.

Alternatively, you may have an end goal in mind but don’t know exactly how to get there. Your mentor might be able to talk through some possible routes.

Though some of our alumni are professional coaches, the majority are not. Alumni speak with the benefit of their experiences, which may give you insights and inspiration.

Getting started

We facilitate mentoring relationships within the alumni community through Johnian Hub, our online digital networking platform. To get involved you will need to create a profile on Johnian Hub.

As you fill out your profile, you’ll be asked about how you’re willing to help or mentor other alumni or what support you’re seeking. You can also use your profile to say more about your experiences or what help you’re looking for in the ‘Getting started’ section.

Finding a mentor

Consider what you need in a mentor. Do they need to work in your industry? Could you benefit from talking to someone who has general experience in management and leadership in an unrelated sector? Or do you perhaps want to talk to someone who is making change happen for themselves and others in the face of inequality?

Navigate to the ‘mentoring’ section of Johnian Hub. You will automatically be shown suggested mentors based on your profile. If they are not quite right for you, then add more information to your profile. Alternatively, you can search for mentors based on company, industry and job function. When you’ve found someone who looks like an interesting match, click the ‘request help’ or ‘request mentoring’ button to connect with them. You’ll only be able to do this if they opted in to offering this kind of help.

Becoming a mentor

Simply ensure that your profile reflects your preferences for offering help or mentoring. This will enable other alumni to contact you directly. You don’t have to accept every mentoring request you receive; only take on as much as you can handle! If you decline a request, however, we encourage you to send the potential mentee an email out of courtesy.

How do I make the first approach to a potential mentor?

Do some thinking before you make your approach; what questions are you trying to answer and why do you think this person might be able to help you?

Remember, you have St John’s in common. That’s a great connection that may facilitate immediate shared experiences; favourite buildings, membership of sports clubs or societies, the subject you studied or a favourite Buttery meal!

When you establish a mentoring relationship, it has to be a good fit for you both — and you both share the responsibility for ensuring that.

I’ve linked up with a mentor/mentee. Now how do we establish an effective mentoring relationship?

It’s your choice what shape your mentoring relationship takes. Use your judgement to make the most of the opportunity for yourself.

Nonetheless, here are some principles that could help you:

Start with a video call

We suggest that after making initial contact, you have a video call to establish what the mentee is looking for and explore whether it’s a good match for both of you. You’ll get a sense from speaking to each other whether there is potential to take it further. Talk through practical questions as well: What frequency of contact do you want? What are the best communication tools for you both?

Come with a plan but be willing to adapt

As a mentee, the more clearly you can express what you need, the more likely you will be to find it. So come to your mentoring relationship with some goals. Trust your instincts, but keep your mind open to ideas or perspectives you might not have considered.

If the word ‘mentoring’ doesn’t suit your needs, choose another one!

Mentoring, or your idea of mentoring, might not be exactly what you think you need. Maybe you just want a quick CV review, or you have a specific question about professional qualifications in your industry. Don’t be afraid to contact a mentor or someone willing to help on Johnian Hub, letting them know the level of help you are seeking. You could get a useful opinion in a matter of hours.

Treat the relationship as you would any other professional relationship

Communicating clearly and with courtesy, following up on your actions and sticking to schedule will help build trust and a solid foundation. Respect the confidence that you place in one another and practice discretion.

If either of you discover that the fit is not quite right or no longer suits your needs, then you have the right to terminate it. The relationship may run its course naturally or you may decide to actively terminate it. Give some thought to how you do this respectfully and sensitively. You may meet the person at an alumni event sometime in the future!

And of course, if you don’t know the person then take sensible precautions for communicating with a stranger online or meeting in person.

Acknowledge that your time is precious

You are both doing this alongside your other various professional and personal commitments. Be patient with your mentor/mentee, and be flexible; you may need the same understanding from your mentor/mentee at some time in the future. You never know what life may throw at you!

Celebrate successes

Record your achievements, take your disappointments lightly and celebrate your successes! The alumni relations team would love to hear about your experiences of mentoring within the alumni community, so don’t hesitate to update us on your progress.

Responsibilities of the mentor and the mentee

Regardless of how you structure your mentoring relationship, we suggest you adopt these respective responsibilities.

Responsibility of the mentor

· Acknowledge mentoring requests whether you can accept them or not.

· Suggest an initial video meeting to kick things off.

· Be straight forward about how you think you can and cannot help your mentee. If there are specific things you can’t assist with, perhaps you can direct them to alternative resources?

· Establish the best way for your mentee to contact you and manage expectations about your availability.

· Listen. It starts with listening to your mentee. The challenges they face in their career may be different to what you experienced in yours, even if you’re working in the same industry or the same company. Gender, race and other factors affect our individual experiences in the working environment.

Responsibility of the mentee

· Make the first move. It’s your responsibility to approach potential mentors.

· Think about what you want to get out of it. The more precise you can be, the better you’ll be able to focus on your needs. Do some research in advance so you can ask questions from a baseline of knowledge.

· Prepare to be flexible and recognise that you both have busy lives. If you don’t receive an answer straight away, be patient.

· Propose an agenda or talking points for your meetings to keep them on track.

· Express your thanks to your mentor for any time or support they give you.

You are welcome to speak to the alumni relations team at any time about using Johnian Hub. Call us on 01223 338700 or email