Mentoring Scheme Guidelines – By Eleanor Mills

Thank you so much for agreeing to be a mentor on our Women in Journalism scheme – we all believe that we need more women in the higher echelons of Journalism, this scheme, now in its third year, is really making a difference. Well done for helping the next generation.

For both mentor and mentor

We know how busy you all are. What we would like is that over the year you have at least four conversations with your mentee. They need to last for at least half an hour and it is best if they happen in person, but if that is impossible a phone or skype call is fine, but try and make sure you will have an uninterrupted stretch of time.

  • A good idea is to arrange the date at the end of each meeting so you don’t have to faff around finding a new one during the intervening period.
  • To keep things on track, we also recommend you agree on three goals/tasks for the mentee to complete before your next meeting and to then discuss what progress has been made.  
  • Respect confidentiality – trust is key to get the most out of the experience.

For mentees

  • Do expect your mentor to keep in touch – let WiJ know at the wijmentors after 6 February 2020 if you have not heard from them initially.  But do remember how precious the time of a senior female journalist is. They are not there to get you a job, or edit your copy, but to give general advice about how you might get on
  • You’re in control of the agenda and need to take responsibility for your development, don’t expect a magic quick fix from your mentor – they’re there to guide you, not to do the work for you
  • Be receptive to your mentor’s advice and their point of view – even if it’s not what you want to hear!
  • Be flexible and take initiative; seek your mentor’s advice when needed to make the most of the relationship.
  • Be willing to try new things and to consider different ways of getting where you want to be in light of of your mentor’s insight
  • Always make notes from your meetings with your mentor and agree on next steps!

Please please please do NOT set a date and then not turn up. Time is precious.

For mentors

  • Do initiate contact with your mentee within 2 weeks of being assigned as their mentor please
  • Work with your mentee to set realistic goals that will help them progress within their career
  • Be clear about expectations and boundaries – your mentee shouldn’t expect you to find her a job or to edit her copy. You are there as a sounding board, to offer your opinions from your experiences. Ask probing open-ended questions. It’s a good thing to ask where they want to end up eventually. Try and find out what their headlines are, what’s worrying them, what are they most concerned about now. Also, be generous with your contacts and advice – if you know someone who might be able to help, please do so
  • Take notes after each meeting so you can remember what they told you last time
  • Take an interest in their progress and watch their career in between meetings – sending encouraging emails if they get a splash etc. or supporting them through social media
  • Be honest about your failures/struggles that you faced/still face in your career – your insight into journalism is invaluable to them. This process works best with honesty on both sides
  • Pass on knowledge, experience and guidance concerning topics and issues your mentee raises
  • Keep your mentee informed on opportunities you hear about
  • Stand back from the issues your mentee raises but work together on them; you’re there to provide insightful but objective feedback

The best mentor/mentee relationships end up in enduring friendships – I hired my first mentee because I thought she was so brilliant. The idea of the scheme is that we all end up knowing each other better and helping each other out. Good Luck! 

Eleanor Mills
Chair, Women in Journalism
Editor Sunday Times Magazine, editorial director Sunday Times;