How mentoring can boost your career
By Gemma Raw
We all know that effective mentoring is imperative for great social work practice, but have you considered how you can use mentoring to boost your career? At Sanctuary, we work closely with our candidates to help them achieve the careers that they deserve. They tell us exactly how they see their career going and we help them find the right job roles to help them reach their goals. But we know that not everyone has a Sanctuary fairy godmother working in the background to help them succeed. Some social workers may need to look a little closer to home to find the right mentor to support their personal career path. Mentoring is a subject that we regularly feature within Social Work News magazine. In the popular Social Work Circle column, our social worker told us how she benefited from having a mentor and it’s a topic we frequently come back to. But whilst we often talk about the importance of mentoring from a practice perspective, it’s important to also consider how we can use mentoring to help us move forward in our careers and remain professionally satisfied.
As busy social workers, we know that you’ll be working in highly pressurised environments supporting children, young people, and adults. You’ll be juggling so many different caseloads that it can be difficult to even think beyond the end of the day, let alone look into the future to see what you want to achieve. This is where a dedicated mentor can help. They can be there to support you through tough days, and keep you moving forward on your career path.
Improve your skills
Last week, we spoke about how to rediscover your passion for social work. If you’ve found yourself lacking in motivation, then asking a respected colleague to act as a mentor for you will play a big part in your career.
We know that mentoring and regular supervision can improve your practical skills. But did you know that having a mentor can help you to discover new skills and uncover new strengths that may have been unaware of? In a working situation, we’re so used to working hard on our caseloads that we often don’t have the time to reflect on what we do well. This is where a mentor can help you to improve your own self-awareness. They can help you to see exactly what you are good at, and which areas could benefit from improvements. This deeper insight into your own skills will help you also identify similar skill sets in other colleagues – an ideal talent if you wish to move into a service manager/team leader role.
Build new relationships
The value of mentoring can be seen in the relationships that you build with others. As social workers, you’ll be continuously liaising with colleagues in other departments, professionals from external agencies, educational specialists, healthcare staff and police. Not to mention having to build positive relationships with the families that you support.
If your mentor has helped you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then it stands to reason that your relationships with others will become more positive. You may be able to adapt to new ways of working, or maybe you can try more effective forms of communication. As you start to build stronger relationships, you’ll find that you’ll start to achieve more positive outcomes for the people you care for. This could then lead to a snowball effect which could prove positive for your career.
Keep us on track to reach our goals
We’ve all sat down at various points of our careers and thought about what we want to achieve, and when we want to do it by. But do we ever actually take stock and think about whether we’re doing what we intend to do? A great mentor will keep you on track to reach your goals. If you have a five-year plan, they’ll be able to help you identify your goals and work alongside you to help you achieve them. If you have a dream of becoming a Director of Service, then why not ask for a private one-to-one session with your Director to find out how they achieved it? They may be extremely busy, but unless you ask them, you’ll never know! Your mentor should keep you accountable for your own decisions. They’ll know how to push you into making brave moves which suit your career prospects, and they’ll know how to support you as you move forward.
Give you the confidence to go for that promotion
Bravery and confidence are two of the most important boosts that regular mentoring can bring. Its human nature to dream about winning a lucrative promotion, but how many of us are applying for that job role? From a career path perspective, the most influential thing that any mentor can do is to give you the confidence to push yourself and encourage you to apply for those dream job roles. Last year, we spoke to Nasheem Singh from Westminster City Council’s Children’s Services. In an article for Social Work News, she made an empowering statement which said:
“If you are considering applying for a senior position in your profession, don’t be put off, apply, push yourself and feel confident and proud of what you have to offer, not only your years of experience but your unique and authentic self. Think about setting a career plan, set your goals and start downloading job descriptions for senior positions and look at what is required and have a go at applying. Think about requesting a coach or mentor to help self a development plan and build on your leadership skills.”
In the context of her article, Nasheen was specifically talking about why it’s so important to encourage more black and Asian leadership within the social work profession. But it’s also fantastic advice, which should apply to all social workers at all stages of their careers. If you want to progress in your career, then make sure that you are applying for challenging new roles. Use your job role changes to advance your career and take you further up that career path.
After all, you never know where it could take you!