23 March 2020
Mike Hurst explores the importance of mentoring in the security industry
As all students of the Homeric epic, The Odyssey, will know, Mentor was the son of Alcimus, who in his old age, became a close friend of Odysseus the King of Ithaca. When he went to fight in the Trojan War, Odysseus charged Mentor with the responsibility of caring for his son Telemachus. Odysseus was known for his intellect, his cunning and the breadth of his skills and talents so putting such trust in Mentor indicates the high regard in which Mentor was held.
Despite this being a semi-mythical story from prehistory it goes some way to highlighting the importance of mentoring, something that is becoming increasingly well recognised and accepted.
What is a mentor?
Wikipedia defines mentorship as a ”relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but they must have a certain area of expertise". It makes an interesting point regarding age. Whilst normally this will be an older person mentoring a younger one, a younger person with specific knowledge on perhaps social media use or diversity, could be a great mentor to an older person who wants to update certain skills or perhaps become more culturally aware.
It is worth noting that mentoring is not counselling or therapy even though the mentor may help the mentee to access more specialised avenues of help if it becomes apparent that this would be the best way forward.
Mentoring is more than ‘giving advice’ or passing on what your experience was in a particular area or situation. It's about motivating and empowering the other person to identify their own issues and goals, and helping them to find ways of resolving or reaching them – not by doing it for them, or expecting them to ‘do it the way I did it’, but by understanding and respecting different ways of working.
Why should you be a mentor?
Many people will have reached a stage in their career when they feel that it would be good to give something to give back to the profession. This could be by being a volunteer leader in a professional association, writing articles in professional publications but also by sharing their skills and experience helping to develop the careers of others.
Mentoring is normally a semi-structured process and can focus on career advancement, leadership, professional visibility, networking, overcoming barriers to career success, or any other professional area. It can be for run for a fixed period of time or for one particular purpose or it can run on an ongoing basis for many years.
It is often self-perpetuating. Mentors may well have their own mentors, and the people they are mentoring might wish to ‘put something back’ and become mentors themselves – it's a chain for ‘passing on’ good practice so that the benefits can be widely spread.
It is not entirely altruistic though. Hopefully, mentors will get a sense of personal fulfilment and enjoyment from being recognised as a subject matter expert and leader. Also, the opportunity to educate, influence and inspire change that mentoring offers exposes you to fresh perspectives, ideas, attitudes and approaches. Quietly basking in the reflected glory of your mentee's achievements is also good, but it is important not to take credit for their successes.
Mentors need to be readily accessible and prepared to offer help as the need arises, within agreed bounds.
The benefits to being a mentee
It may be that someone feels they need to boost their hard or soft skills, get some guidance on the direction their careers are taking or perhaps some advice on how to progress to the next level.
A mentor may be someone in your own organisation, or membership body or just someone who you feel is in a position to offer you the support and input you need.
Connecting with an experienced colleague for guidance and professional advice can enable you to gain knowledge and experience in proactive, protective strategies using industry best practices; expand your network of contacts; improve your employability skills and prepare for career advancement.
What makes a good match
Effective mentorship can be time consuming for both parties so finding a good match is critical, as is defining the scope and duration on the relationship. This is the reason that the Professional Development Council of ASIS International has launched a new Security Leaders Mentoring Program that connects security professionals worldwide to a wealth of resources, advice, and guidance through one-on-one connections. Mentor relationships will formally last six months and can focus on career advancement, leadership, professional visibility, networking, overcoming barriers to career success, or any other professional area.
Details of the program and how to apply can be found here. https://www.asisonline.org/professional-development/mentoring-program/
Mike Hurst CPP is vice chairman of the UK Chapter of ASIS International and a member of its European Governance Work Stream and its Professional Development Council. For more information visit www.asis.org.uk