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Being a Professional Mentor

A mentor is ‘a wise and trusted professional friend’, and people who hold these characteristics often make great mentors. Building upon these foundations, SaRS looks for its full members to act as mentors to be suitably experienced people who can act as confidential colleagues and guides to promote structured, professional development to their mentees.

Many organisations have successfully adopted mentoring in order to assist their employees to further their career development. This guide highlights important points about mentoring.

Whether you become a mentor, a mentee or both, the experience will be satisfying and mutually rewarding.

Whether you are new to mentoring or you are an experienced mentor hoping to refresh your skills and learn some new tips, this manual will help develop your ability and confidence in effectively mentoring others. Using practical exercises and case studies based on real experiences, you will learn how to identify your mentees’ needs and support them effectively with achieving their goals. Importantly, we will also help you to recognise when you are unable to assist your mentee and should encourage them to seek other sources of support.

Topics which we to develop:

  • The use different techniques to establish a constructive relationship with your mentee;
  • The need ask open questions and listen effectively to understand your mentee’s needs;
  • Recognise and understand the importance of body language;
  • Structure your mentoring to help someone achieve their goals;
  • Ensure that both you and your mentee benefit from the relationship;
  • Support someone working towards professional registration;
  • Conclude your mentoring relationship in a positive way.

Initial reading and understanding

As a mentor you need to know the requirements for SaRS membership and grades as defined in the SaRS membership and grading manual. The EC UK Spec competency requirements which are freely available from the ECUK website and where appropriate theSEErequirements for registration.

All these documents are available by application to the SaRS office.

 

Mentoring for professional development

Planned career development is essential for all practising professional engineers and technologists. The main responsibility must lie with the individual but the active support of a wise colleague in the role of a mentor can be extremely helpful, especially during the early stages of a career or in times of change.

A mentor can help the mentee assess his or her needs and establish a development plan with goals that can be achieved during a relatively short time period. Regular review meetings can then be arranged to consider progress and propose changes to the plan. The mere prospect of a forthcoming meeting helps the individual to focus on achieving  targets. The mentor might also give the mentee the opportunity to try out, in confidence, a range of ideas and methods of working before having to make final decisions on their implementation.

Most engineers will, at some stage, wish to focus their development on gaining registration with the Engineering CouncilUK. To achieve this they will need to satisfy a number of requirements laid down by SaRs andSEEand the EC UK regulations. Obtaining help and guidance from a senior engineer who is knowledgeable about the requirements and the level of achievement that is expected is strongly recommended for this stage of development to ensure that the broad range of requirements is satisfied.

Whatever stage of their career, and whatever the particular needs of the individual at the time, the role of the mentor should be clearly defined by both parties at the outset of the relationship. The boundaries of the mentor’s involvement and influence should be agreed, taking the interests of all concerned fully into account.

Care should be taken to make sure that the needs of employers are considered. It is also wise to define a timespan for the relationship. Experience has shown that effective mentoring partnerships usually last for a relatively short time. An individual may gain help from different mentors at different times in his or her career.

The relationship between the mentor and the person seeking guidance should be personal and confidential, quite distinct from the relationship between superior and subordinate.

The mentor should challenge and support, but should neither tell the mentee what to do nor provide assessments to others. The conversation should be kept with the confines of the mentoring session.

A good mentor will want to ensure that the mentee gains confidence and independence as a result of mentoring and is enabled to take full and effective responsibility for his or her own development over

the next career stage..

 

The structure and frequency of meetings can be decided between the individuals concerned. However, it is good practice to always arrange a subsequent date before the close of a meeting to make sure that a regular review of progress is maintained. It is also helpful for the mentor to be available for consultation earlier than planned if an unexpected need should arise.

Both members of the partnership should find that they gain personal satisfaction and experience personal growth during the progress of a mentoring relationship. If mentors approach the undertaking with open minds they will find they learn from the other person and recognise development opportunities in their own care.

 

Supporting Candidates towards Professional Registration

Supporting others in their personal and professional development is one of the most rewarding activities that we can undertake and the benefits are not just one sided.

It allows us to gain and learn just as much from the experience as our colleagues and we find our own motivation and enthusiasm growing. The methods and processes involved when we undertake professional development are the same no matter what our goal

– either to reach professional registration, or just to maintain competence.

For those working towards a professional qualification the process is more defined and candidates may require a little more help and guidance than those who are continuing their development within existing careers.

This manual defines what candidates will need to achieve; describe the ways in which you can help and support them; and outline what assistance is available from SaRS and how to access it.

Incorporated Engineer (IEng)

Recognition for those applying a high level of skill and experience to ensure the effective implementation of new technology and practice in creating safe and reliable assured products and processes.

Chartered Engineer (CEng)

Recognition for those developing new or innovative solutions to engineering problems and pioneering new initiatives in the fields of reliability and safety engineering.

Supporting Registration

Roles and Responsibilities of Professional Engineers and Technicians

An engineer or technician uses scientific, technical and other pertinent knowledge, understanding and skills to create, enhance, operate or maintain safe, reliable and efficient  systems, structures, machines, plant, processes or devices of practical economic value.

Engineering and technological professions are directed towards the skilled application of a distinctive body of knowledge based on mathematics, science and technology, integrated with business and management, which is acquired through education and professional formation in a particular discipline. It is directed to developing and providing infrastructure, goods and services for industry and the community.

The following general statements about definitions, roles and responsibilities relating to the Incorporated and Chartered Engineers and provide the basis for the setting of standards and programmes for initial professional development and for the demonstration of professional competence and commitment. All professionals have a responsibility to society with regard to safety and the ethical and environmental impact of their work. The teaching of engineering and the professional development of engineers, as well as its practice, are acceptable professional activities.

Chartered Engineers (CEng)

Chartered Engineers are characterised by their ability to develop appropriate solutions to engineering problems, using new or existing technologies, through innovation, creativity and change. They may develop and apply new technologies, promote advanced designs and design methods, introduce new and more efficient, safety and reliable products and systems and pioneer new engineering services and management methods. They may be involved with the leadership and direction of high-risk and resource-intensive projects. Professional judgement is a key feature of their role, allied to the assumption of responsibility for the direction of important tasks, including the profitable management of industrial and commercial enterprises.

Incorporated Engineers (IEng)

Incorporated Engineers are specialists in the development and application of today’s technology, managing and maintaining applications of current and developing technology at the highest efficiency. With their detailed knowledge and understanding of current engineering applications, they possess the skills and know-how to make things happen and often have key operational management roles. They have detailed understanding of a recognised field of technology and exercise independent judgement and management within that area. They add substantial value, independently and as managers, to any organisation where reliability and safety are core activities or supports the business.

The key to registration is demonstration of competence, which is assessed through a holistic review of the candidate’s ability to undertake a professional engineering or technology role. The candidate will be required to demonstrate competence against the relevant competence standards set by Enginering Council UK Spec regulations to achieve professional registration. CEng and IEng candidates will subsequently be required to attend a professional review interview.

‘Competence’ presumes a level of underpinning knowledge and understanding appropriate to the category of registration that the candidate seeks. This knowledge is not ‘stand-alone’ and it may be gained through work and other experience including experiential learning or academic study. Candidates working toward professional registration may have a range of qualifications or experience which can contribute to their competence and form part of their application. These may include accredited or non-accredited academic qualifications, vendor-accredited qualifications (e.g. Cisco and Microsoft) or other forms of work-based learning.

The final item to consider here is the professional competency interview. The mentor can help prepare the candidate for the interview by reviewing the competency topics, the need for the candidate to say what they individually have done rather than the use of we did. It is common for us as individuals not to press their own personal contribution, but this is the exception. The assessors need to know the candidates personal responsibilities and how they have direct contributed in the area of safety and reliability and in the general topics of competency within the EC UK Spec regulations.

Learning Through Experience

This is the process by which a person who does not meet the academic requirements for the grade of member or professional registration they desire.

This will be through the candidate writing a review report:

  • The candidate may proceed to prepare a review report which the Society will expect to be product of the candidate’s own inspiration and expression.
  • The review report shall be between approximately 5000 words and in the English language.  It may be, or may be based on, a report of original work or on other previously published works of the candidate’s authorship. It may be a selection of work reports which cover all relevant components of ECUK criteria or equivalent. Example criteria for the review report can be found on the Society website and these criteria should be cross-referenced in the review report.
  • The candidate will be expected to offer an ordered and critical exposition of some aspect of Safety and Reliability which describes the definition of problems or aims and their subsequent resolution by the application of engineering principles.  Historical reviews are only acceptable as background material.  Candidates will find it profitable to concentrate on recent achievements in which they played a part.
  • The review report must contain more than descriptive material that could be obtained from published sources.  It should contain reasoned analysis and synthesis and there should be discussion on the validity of the applications of basic knowledge to the development of the subject of the paper.
  • Where appropriate the text should be illustrated by clear diagrams and a reference list should be provided in respect of source material.
  • It is the candidate’s responsibility of obtain permissions (e.g. employer) to submit work of a confidential nature.
  • The mentor should discuss the content and depth of the report at an early stage and then monitor progress through to completion. The mentor should ensure that the report contain sufficient information to allow the assessor to reach a clear conclusion on the adequacy of the report.

Mentor

The successful mentor is someone who:

  • Volunteers time to take a personal interest in others;
  • Listens ‘actively’;
  • Questions and finds out what is important to others by exploring their skills, aptitudes and aspirations;
  • Challenges assumptions and acts as a sounding board;
  • Encourages the growth of trust and confidence, which assists the learning process;
  • Regards all that the mentee says as confidential;
  • Helps someone less experienced to learn by allowing minor errors but endeavours to prevent them making major ones;
  • Sets an agreed period for the relationship, to avoid entering into an open-ended commitment;
  • Avoids mentoring those in a direct reporting line, and does not ‘step on the toes’ of the mentees line managers;
  • Brings a rigorously professional approach to the mentoring relationship;
  • Uses imagination to overcome own limitations as well as those of the mentee;
  • Recognises when the mentee should identify a need for other sources of help;

 

Conducting a successful mentoring meeting

  • Try to set a regular time for meetings and make sure you are prepared for them.
  • You don’t always have to meet face-to-face to conduct your mentoring relationship. You can maintain contact by telephone or email.
  • Why not meet over lunch or a drink after work? You can combine mentoring with a meal! (Sorry SaRS cannot pay for it!)
  • Use open question like “tell me about how you developing competency in identifying problems and apply diagnostic methods”? (Part of UK Spec competency B1), rather than “have to complied with competency B1”? Which is a closed question and not helpful.
  • Be aware of your and the mentee’s body language, try to keep thing relaxed and open.
  • Why not recommend other resources to your mentee. Books, computers, the SaRS website (particularly the members’ area) and classes are all good learning tools, and your mentee may be able to research his/her options further. These options may help save you time but will still allow you to conduct an effective relationship.
  • Try to encourage your mentee to give you feedback on any actions that they have taken as a result of your guidance.
  • Your mentee might also be able to offer you something, so take advantage of any expertise that they may have.
  • Remember, mentoring is a two-way experience and should be mutually beneficial.

 

The mentee

The success of a mentoring relationship depends also on the attitude and commitment of the individual being mentored.

He or she should:

  • Understand that the role of the mentor is to challenge and encourage, but not to provide answers;
  • Guard against becoming dependent on the mentor;
  • Approach each meeting fully prepared;
  • Recognise when the mentoring partnership, having achieved the planned objective, has reached its natural end.

 

Answers to frequently asked questions

 

How much time is entailed?

The frequency and length of meetings should be agreed between you. Most people find that one-hour meetings are about right. Many mentees find it helpful to have relatively frequent meetings, say once a month, in the early stages and then less frequently as the relationship becomes established and they are working towards more long term goals.

What costs are involved?

No charges are made by SaRS for the scheme. Any charge made for mentors’ services would negate the independence and impartiality which the mentor must bring to the relationship. The costs incurred in travelling to face-to-face mentoring meetings should not be any more than a member would incur in supporting other SaRS activities by travelling to a branch meeting or other event. This is one reason why the dominant criterion in matching mentors and mentees is geographic proximity.

Do I need to be aware of the latest technical developments?

No, mentoring is not career advice. The mentor’s role is to help the mentee step back and view situations calmly and imaginatively. Also to help them consider whether they have explored all their options.

Is it possible to be a mentor and a mentee simultaneously?

Yes. The best mentors are those who can look critically at themselves, are good at building networks and can use the help of other people.

Is it possible to participate in more than one mentoring scheme?

Yes – but do make sure that you don’t overstretch yourself. It is important that you are able to give time to each of your mentees.

How frequently should a mentor and mentee meet?

This depends on the requirements of the mentee at the particular time. However, as a guide, you might meet every month for three or four months and then less frequently once your relationship is established and the mentee is on track working towards his or her goals.

If face-to-face meetings are inconvenient periodically, is keeping in touch by email and by telephone adequate?

Yes. Face to face meetings are always the most valuable because they allow thoughts to be communicated freely but when this is not possible email and telephone are a good substitute. It is certainly much better to keep in touch regularly by these means rather than to leave long gaps because of the difficulty of meeting.

Is it good practice to plan or structure the discussion before meeting or communicating?

Should this be mentee led?

Yes – but be flexible. It is certainly a good idea to think ahead about the issues you will wish to cover. Some aspects should be mentee-led but don’t forget that it is the mentor’s role to help the mentee explore new ideas and new possibilities.

I am new to mentoring, how do I know that my support is good enough?

All SaRS mentor are full members of the society and in the case of those giving support to candidates for professional registration are Chartered Engineers. The process is a mutual learning one and mentors will improve only by doing it and getting feedback from their mentees. Remember, though, that, if for any reason you, either as mentee or mentor, are not happy with the way the relationship is going you should either talk about the problems and try to get the relationship back on track or else bring it to an end and find a different pairing. It is perfectly acceptable to admit that this mentor/mentee is not right for you.

What about liability for the accuracy of any advice a mentor might give?

Mentors must be careful not to give advice that could subsequently lead to problems. Their role is to help the mentee think through the various options that are open to them and come to their own decision.

Where should meetings be held?

It is important to choose a location that is convenient and acceptable for both parties. Meetings should not generally take place in the home of either. When choosing your location think about such matters as confidentiality, personal safety, surrounding noise levels, atmosphere as well as mutual comfort and relaxation.