By Michele Canning Chart.PR FCIPR.

It’s a perfectly valid question and the answer has to be: anyone who wants one and is willing to commit to their own professional development.

The word ‘mentor’ means someone who teaches, gives help or advice. From the ancient Greek language, the name is derived from a character in Homer's epic, Odyssey, named Mentor - the trusted male friend of Odysseus. The guidance itself came from the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, but that’s a whole other topic.

So, let me fast forward 3000 years, where mentoring is regarded as an important part of personal and professional growth.

I’m a fellow of the CIPR for less than two years and genuinely privileged to be one of the practitioners in the industry to step up and say - I’m here to help if you need it.

Personally, I have benefitted from mentoring and it has been a powerful influence in my 30-year career. It shaped who, what and where I wanted to be and do; which paths to take and crucially the importance of ethics and values and principles for me in that journey.

I’ve experienced mentoring in a more official capacity. Long after the end of one formal mentoring relationship, that individual remains one of my ‘go to’ people when I find myself at a crossroads.

So, mentoring is the offer of a safe space, somewhere to sense check ideas; confidentially discuss your career ups and downs, your aspirations, your hopes. And yes, your dreams!

Crucial to the relationship is trust and accountability. I don’t subscribe to any notion that it is a one-way relationship or that the dynamic is weighted with the mentor. It must be a mutually beneficial relationship and rewarding for both, and it must be collaborative and reciprocal.

I am a curious learner. I like to learn new things. I’m not afraid to own my mistakes, of which there have been many and, I’m sure, more to come.

It’s as much about the learned and lived experience of professional pitfalls and opportunities as it is about taking risk, knowing what is right for you and what fits with your values and expectations. So, I am always on a learning curve.

For those considering finding a mentor, here’s my tips:

- It’s about you, it’s your development

- It’s not a magic wand to guarantee success

-  You must take responsibility to make it work for you in as much as I’ll commit to my responsibility

-  It’s a way to learn lessons and to ‘fail faster’, skip the not knowing

- You must contribute to conversations, openly and honestly

I’m not there to give all the answers. In fact, I don’t have them all. It’s an opportunity for you to gain fresh perspective and the benefit of lived experience to help reach goals.

What I promise is:

-  I will value you as an individual

-  I will work to develop mutual trust and respect

-  I will maintain confidentiality

-  I will listen to what you say, and how you say it

-  I will help you solve your problem

This is about you!

The CIPR Progress mentoring scheme is free and exclusive to members. Find Michele’s mentor profile and learn more about the scheme here.