5 Tips When Considering A Mentor

We all have to start somewhere

Qualifications, training, reading, blogs, discussion forums (you have joined The Surveyor Hub, right?), ear-wigging, brainstorming with other students and colleagues. It’s all important stuff for a would-be surveyor.

Anyone with serious ambitions to be a trusted professional adviser knows in their gut and from their professional membership body, it has got to be backed up by practical experience and good quality supervised mentoring where knowledge is shared. That means doing it properly, feeling confident and importantly acting ethically. As a mentee you have a responsibility to make sure you off to a good start.

The water wings do however have to come off at some point.

Clients expect well read, well-educated but crucially experienced practitioners and there is no better way to learn a practical job than getting stuck into the job. When it comes to mentoring in the surveying sector, the old adage ‘throw them in at the deep end, sink or swim’ is often quoted. Yet just as our learning styles differ so can mentoring skills and the motivation behind them.

Mentoring can be frustrating. Time is precious and often the pressure of client work can mean explaining something new to someone can be frustrating, hurried or done in a way which does not support their learning or getting something done fast – we end up just telling them the answer or just doing something ourselves because it is quicker than explaining it to someone else.

Moral responsibility

Worse however is to throw mentees literally in the deep end, asking an unqualified surveyor to attend a property or site alone, take as many photos, measurements and sketches as possible then talk it through later or countersign the report they prepared.

Why? Because as a professional it’s never just the reputation or liabilities of a firm that need to be considered. There is a personal and professional duty to assess the competence to undertake any instruction.  It can be argued that duty doesn’t apply until you’ve qualified as a surveyor, but really that’s stretching it. We know it happens in the industry, it’s not right and we call it out.

There is a moral responsibility to a mentee, who is often desperate for experience, to learn in good time and in a safe and nurturing environment. Just because the mentee may be more mature doesn’t mean they have any less needs when it comes to being supported in a professional career.

Here are our 5 things to consider when finding a mentor:

  1. Good quality mentoring is better than hours on the clock. Choose your mentor wisely and on recommendation. This is your career and you want to learn from the best not pick up bad habits.
  2. Consider what you can learn elsewhere. Networking events and online forums are great places to learn. It’s not just pure CPD you should be looking for but the conversations and relationships you develop.
  3. Be prepared to strike up conversations – if you are a mentee, you don’t need to start every conversation with defining where you are at in your career. There are other, sometimes more interesting, things about you.
  4. The thirst to gain experience shouldn’t cloud your judgement. There are plenty of well-regarded practices and corporate employers who take training and mentoring seriously and guard against the sink or swim approach.
  5. Many employers have a progressive approach to additional training and development, compare the training and mentoring offered so you can make a judgement on what you need for your career and be intentional about it. The mentoring phase of a career is often short in the context of a lifelong career. Ask if you will be expected to attend properties solo and question why.

We strongly caution against putting yourself in a position whereby you’re only half steady. By all means be primed with a spanner to take the stabilisers off when the time comes. Because when it does you can ride like the wind and take others on the journey with you.

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