Rapport-building with your mentor (Blog 1)

I am paired with Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, a distinguished surgeon and medical director of BUPA.

I had some initial delays with contacting and meeting my mentor. However, this was due to a series of unfortunate events. It must be remembered that such an illustrious man will be very busy, so it is fair to make allowances with a good degree of flexibility.

I met Andrew first in BUPA House, London, where we had a coffee. The initial meeting mainly comprised of getting to know each other, discussing our respective backgrounds and finding areas of common ground. This is was particularly noted in music; at the time I was rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony; the style of  whose music suited Andrew’s taste too. Having extra-curricular matters that we both appreciate helps to develop rapport, which has subsequent beneficial effects in the mentor-mentee relationship. We did, of course, discuss how we wanted this relationship to develop and we constructed some realistic goals.

Our further meeting happened in Birmingham. Andrew had affairs with the Guild, and so offered to meet up when he arrived. As anticipated, this meeting flowed much better. Two factors were mainly responsibly for this. Firstly, we had already met once before, and we could discuss, retrospectively, our affairs over the Christmas period. Secondly, we were able develop our ideas further, having previously outlined the goals in the first meeting, with the result of making further progress to accomplish our set targets. It has even resulted in some shadowing experience with him this month.

In sum the following can be learnt from the beginnings of my mentor-mentee relationship: 1) Do not get disheartened if there are initial delays in commencing the relationship; our leaders are very busy people and will eventually find the time for you. 2) Develop rapport with you mentor – it is a personal 1:1 relationship, and finding the areas of common interest is paramount to the ease, success and benefits of the relationship. 3) Use the wealth of experience of the mentor to help influence some career decisions that may be very difficult to make.

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