I have asked a number of appropriate professionals to elaborate on what they think mentoring is and should be. First up is Claudia Filsinger, who has kindly provided an outline from the perspective of a career and business coaching expert:
What is mentoring? Mentoring often involves the mentor having more experience in a profession or sector than the mentee. In addition to sharing experiences and giving advice the mentor gives general support and encouragement as well as supporting the formulation of goals. It is often overlooked that there are many benefits not just for the mentee, but also the mentor. In fact a recent development is "reverse mentoring". For example young employees introduce older employees to social media or junior female employees reverse mentor male executives.Career researchers recommend multiple mentors, which can be both formal and informal. Complementary activities like training, coaching, networking and collecting feedback can be used in addition to maximise career success. Success factors for mentoring include clear contracting at the beginning of the relationship (how to work together, what is the goal etc). A pitfall of mentoring could be for the mentee to become dependent on their mentor or feeling obliged to follow advise. So I think an important part of mentoring is to reflect on the mentoring in general and specifically on the relationship, which can include giving each other feedback. Mentoring relationships end at some point - sometimes what looks like small steps can be major achievements, so celebrate!
(Claudia started her career in publishing in Sales and Rights, both in Germany and the UK. Following an international Learning & Development position with a major IT company she now pursues a portfolio career. This includes seminar tutoring at the Brookes Business School in 'Career Planning' and 'Work Placement Search'. She has a Career and Business coaching practice and is studying for an MA in Coaching and Mentoring. She was a member of the Oxford SYP in the late 1990s and is currently on the Committee of the Oxford CIPD.)