How to keep your goals on track 

Sally Clark is former head of communications at National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

She explains how agreeing an approach to meetings with your mentor can help you get the most out of your mentoring relationship.

“Assessing the chemistry you have with your mentor at your first meeting is so important for what you want to achieve. If that person does not have the right experience, they won’t understand your goals.

I decided I wanted to work with a mentor because there is always so much you can learn from other communications professionals. I had just started a contract role with NCB and was embarking upon an in-house brand refresh, which we dubbed our ‘brand tidy-up’. My mentor had been through two brand refreshes at his charity. I had never project managed a brand refresh before and wanted guidance so I could make the most of what could be done in the 10 months I’d be there. I’m also very dedicated to communications and into personal development.

Planning ahead

In our first meeting, my mentor and I agreed how our meetings would work. I would email him before each of our meetings, every six weeks or so, with bullet points to let him know what I wanted to talk about. This gave my mentor time to think so he could best share his experience with me.  I could then go away and apply my learning to my role.

For example, I emailed him before one meeting saying that I’d like to talk about how to embed brand across the organisation in order to get people to own it. He came to our meeting with a calendar that included key messages which his organisation had produced to launch their brand internally. We talked about how to create a ‘big’ moment to launch a brand internally and how it’s important to make it easy for staff to use. This was really helpful and I developed guidelines and templates for staff at NCB to help embed brand there.

Being flexible and focusing

I think it’s important not to be too rigid about the structure of your mentoring relationship. We didn’t speak between meetings as we are both very busy. But our agreed approach meant I knew I could bring current problems to meetings that I needed more senior, non-competitive, input on. For example, I mentioned that I was working on messaging and my mentor told me about how having focus groups helped his organisation to develop a new strapline. That prompted me to take the messaging I was working on to contacts in local authority children’s services, and it completely changed my thinking.

I’m an avid note taker and think that helped to focus me. I have a special book dedicated to my mentoring and only use this to write notes in during sessions. Having notes in one place makes it easier to revisit that learning.

I think your role will guide your goals. My mentoring relationship helped me achieve more than I thought I would at NCB. Setting an agenda before each meeting kept us on track and helped me to think about what I could do with the brand refresh with few resources. It was an invaluable learning process.”

Read more top tips and guidance about being a mentee in our mentee resources section.