The Association for Qualitative Research
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Mentoring first for AQR

Do you remember what it was like when you first started your career in qual, asks Trish Parker, before outlining a new and exciting AQR-backed mentoring scheme.

You're on the first rung of the ladder. You really, really want to do your best, but have never experienced anything like this before: new skills, very bright colleagues, clients, pressure, frightening deadlines, longer hours, some late nights, some early mornings. It's different, and at times hard to cope with.

So there you are, trying hard but sometimes you found yourself running into issues where you could use just a little bit of guidance and you aren't too sure where to turn for help. Call your Mum? Maybe, but will she really understand? Speak to your boss? Will she think I'm a wimp? What about my mates at work? Do I know them well enough and besides, they all seem to be coping…

And once you've got past this stage, new questions arise. How am I doing compared to others in the industry? Are my skills being honed to best advantage? What should I be aiming towards next?

I'm sure some of you remember this well. This is why AQR is introducing a mentoring scheme for young researchers, who may benefit from some support, i.e. those relatively new to the industry with less than five years" experience.

Why has AQR done this? Well, we know that mentoring works, it's been around for years, look at Jessie J's mentoring of her team in The Voice, while Marie Claire is currently publicising a service. That's why some larger research companies have already set up their own internal mentoring schemes. As time goes on, more experienced quallies often build an industry network from friends and ex-colleagues who act as informal mentors.

AQR has a number of experienced, respected members who have put themselves forward to help and assist young researchers through the mentoring scheme. It will ensure mentors are properly trained and potential mentees well matched, so that these young people have someone experienced that they can chat things through with, and gain help and advice as and when they need it.

What we envisage is facilitating a relationship that can last for as long or as short a time as is beneficial, where the mentee is in control of the frequency of contact and what is on the agenda. The focus will always be oriented towards the mentee's professional and personal growth.

This will be a properly monitored scheme, it is absolutely confidential, and mentors are being rigorously trained to ensure they possess the requisite skills. They will also have to sign a contract which includes a no-poaching agreement. As for the mentees, they will be properly briefed about the parameters of the schemes and can then talk with the absolute assurance that nothing will go any further. The relationship won't be prescriptive, and each one will be different, changing over time.

This is an exciting phase for AQR: we have a number of very experienced quallies who, as a way of giving something back, have volunteered as mentors, plus mentees who have put themselves forward. We may even have space for a few more. We'll start soon, once we have paired people up, and got everyone trained.

 

Trish Parker
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