Mentoring is touted as an effective way to help employees starting off in their careers to work their way up the ladder. So what do those who have signed up to be mentored get out of it? Yoosof Farah asked three of them


Mentoring is a long-standing form of training, learning and development which supports personal development, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. For an employee starting out in their career, including those who want to progress up the ladder, mentoring can be a valuable tool.

A lot of architectural practices in Building’s Good Employer Guide mentor their Part 1 students and, according to Mark Fuller, training and development manager at the CITB, it’s learning more about the organisation which employs them that benefits mentees the most.

He says: “Mentoring is particularly effective for graduates. Having that access to an informal network of people in an organisation and knowing where to get information when you need it is very beneficial.

“Often when you’re coming into an organisation for the first time, graduates perhaps don’t feel confident to bombard their managers with questions, so it’s good to have someone else to go to for help or to have something clarified.”

When it comes to best practice, there are things that both the mentee and the mentor need to know. For mentees, it’s important not to become dependent on a mentor – Fuller believes a mentoring programme should not last more than 6-12 months. He adds: “That’s the most significant risk – if [a mentee is dependent] on a mentor, there is a danger that individual will not be provided with the resilience and self-confidence to progress in their career.”

Mentoring is effective for graduates. access to an informal network of people in an organisation and knowing where to get information is very useful

Mark Fuller, CITB

For mentors, having training themselves around mentoring and learning the techniques about questioning before they mentor someone is important. And for both parties, establishing clear guidelines on what both parties’ responsibilities are is key to an effective mentoring programme.

One firm highlighted in Building’s Good Employers Guide was Skanska, which has a mixed-pair mentoring scheme (mentoring between men and women) in a bid to address the issue of diversity in the business.

According to the firm, more than 200 employees have used the mentoring programme since it began in 2010. Of the original cohort 70% of the female mentees were promoted, of which 92% are still with the company.

While mentoring is used to help those work their way up the ladder, it can also be valuable for those who are already halfway up. People in middle management looking to move up, or even just sideways, can still benefit from mentoring and be the mentee as well as the mentor.

Fuller says the CITB’s mentoring programme is open to anyone appointed to a management role, regardless of their seniority, and adds that such an initiative is especially important in large organisations. He says: “Mentoring at [middle management] level can help to develop a wider network within an organisation more quickly. In a large organisation, it is essential to know who to go to when you need help or information.”

So how useful is mentoring and how does it affect the way people work? Building spoke to three people starting out in the industry – from architects, consultants and contractors – to find out why they took part in their company’s mentoring programme, and the tips they have for people thinking of giving mentoring a go.

Vitalija Salygina, architect at Jestico + Whiles, 27


Why did you decide to take part in your company’s mentoring programme?


Mentoring is an extremely helpful resource that nurtures development of professional expertise, allows sharing of experience and knowledge as well as encouraging personal and professional growth. Being a young professional, I think it is very important to be inquisitive and absorbent, ask a lot of questions, and having a mentor in the workplace really boosts one’s confidence to start profession-related discussions.

What’s the most useful thing your mentor has shown you?

One of the biggest benefits that I found was the independent perspective and advice that my mentor was always keen to offer. Being open-minded and accepting criticism and opinions of those more experienced contributes a lot to what one can get out of the mentoring programme.

How has it affected the way you work?

The great opportunity to develop strong professional relationships that comes with the mentorship programme should not be underestimated. As a result of having been mentored by a senior member of my project team, I not only gained extensive professional knowledge but also managed to establish a stronger position in the team. Most importantly, after having established a strong professional mentorship relationship, sharing of knowledge and expertise naturally continues even after the programme is complete.

Have you got any tips for someone thinking of trying mentoring?

Never hesitate to grab any opportunity to use the available resources, attend an event or engage in a programme.

Owen Hollingberry, project surveyor at Alinea, 24


Why did you decide to take part in your company’s mentoring programme


The mentoring programme appealed to me as I knew it would supplement my learning and development at Alinea. The programme would enable me to learn from the experience of my colleagues, this would develop the technical and soft skills that are required in my day to day role.

What’s the most useful thing your mentor has shown you?

Once you have completed a task always challenge yourself and check that you have achieved everything that you were meant to do. A good example is estimating, always sit back and challenge the output.

If the cost varies from where you expect it to be it is very important that you understand why.

How has it affected the way you work?

Using this approach gives you confidence that you have completed your task diligently. Challenging yourself in this way often means that you already have the answers before you are questioned by others. This is very useful when you know you need to present your completed task to your client or project team.

Have you got any tips for someone thinking of trying mentoring?

Mentoring does not have to focus around technical knowledge. You can also work on the development of your soft skills. Try talking through your planned method of communication or presentation for different project scenarios, feedback from your mentor can help to refine and develop these skills.

Alex Robson, highways engineer at Skanska, 31, (mentee) and Paula Lindores, head of leadership development at Skanska, 50, (mentor)


Why did you decide to take part in your company’s mentoring programme?

Paula I was keen to learn more about the operational side of the business to help inform the way I develop training programmes.

Alex Being a manager I wanted to get the very best out of my team by understanding more about working styles.

What’s the most useful thing your mentor has shown you?

Alex Paula has taught me to take the time to understand my colleagues, move away from detail and trust my team to do what they know best. I’ve since received great feedback from colleagues and I now feel I’m a much more effective manager.

How has it affected the way you work?

Paula It has been a real eye opener and has made me appreciate what it’s like to work in a completely different part of the business. I am able to develop programmes much more credibly with the additional knowledge I continue to learn.

Have you got any tips for someone thinking of trying mentoring?

Alex I would highly recommend a mentoring programme to anyone wanting to broaden their outlook. Paula and I are completely different in both profession and personality and this has been really important in enabling me to consider different perspectives and ways of working.