Why having great mentors made all the difference for me

Nicky Dunderdale

By Nicky Dunderdale

18th July 2018

As I sit across the table having my usual weekly chat with my mentor of the last 8 years, I realise just how important having a mentor has been at various points in my career. Would I be the person I am today, personally and professionally, without the guidance and support of the mentors I have had throughout my career? Probably not.

As you all know, I am very much a believer that if you want something you have to go and get it yourself. This is an approach that sits across the whole of my life, not just work (just ask my husband!) However, it is important to remember you need a balanced view and working in splendid isolation is never a good thing. To me, the ability to reflect and debate with another as you develop your career is vital to keeping that balance.

All mentor relationships must be built on a strong foundation of Trust. This is common sense really; it’s the same for any relationship you have, both at work and at home. It takes time to build trust with another and so the initial focus must be about getting to know each other, including your reasons for entering into a mentor relationship in the first place. By working to understand each other you will nurture a far deeper level of Openness and Respect. This, alongside the trust you have developed, will create a winning combination for your mentoring journey.

These characteristics have been the most important for my own mentor experiences over the years. I worked with each of my mentors for a long time prior to formally seeking out their guidance. This is why I have had such positive experiences working with them, as we already had well developed professional relationships built on those key pillars of trust, openness and respect.

Whilst all my mentors have been great, I think it’s important to note that life is life and not all relationships work, no matter how hard you try. If it isn’t working, you just need to be honest and walk away – this goes for mentor and mentee.

I have always ensured that my mentors are aware of my professional ambitions. In doing so we have worked together to identify short and long-term Goals that will enable progress along my career journey. As per my earlier comment, I have owned this and have not expected my mentor to turn up with a pre-formed list of nicely outlined goals. What I have done though in sharing my ambitions is open a debate as to the steps I need to take. This is where openness and respect has been so key for me. In order to progress I have needed to understand and work on my weaknesses, without feeling the feedback I have received is criticism or personal. It took me years to be able to deal with that without feeling the need to be defensive and still have to have a stern chat with myself every now and again.

To borrow one of our key values at Psyon; the ability to ‘Collaborate for Success’ has been a game-changer as to how I have worked with my mentors. There is something utterly inspiring about working with another through a professional problem or challenge you have and establishing the right resolution for the situation. My love of Debate and Problem Solving has led to some very interesting discussions with my mentors, developing new exciting ideas and opportunities against the backdrop of my career aspirations. I have been able to not just develop myself in these debates, but have also influenced the direction of our business, which quite frankly feels great!

I would 100% recommend seeking a mentor for anyone who is seriously looking to develop their career. For me it has made a significant difference to my career and I very much doubt I would have been able to achieve what I have done so far without the guidance and support of my mentors.

One question remains. Knowing what a game-changer having mentors has been for me, am I now ready to ‘pay-it-forward’ and take the step into mentorship myself?