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Mentee case study: Nicola Combe

Nicola Combe tells us why mentoring is important to her as a mentee.

Nicola first heard about the IET’s mentoring scheme when she joined the Career Advantage programme. She took advantage of this service to gain support during her application for chartership.

Nicola Combe works as a product manager for Hive by British Gas. When she joined the IET she signed up for the Career Advantage programme, designed to help members develop their career and work towards professional registration.

One of the key features of the programme is access to the IET mentoring scheme, so when Nicola began thinking about applying for Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, she knew it was time to request a mentor.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Nicola was paired up with a mentor, but after a few failed attempts to meet up she knew this wasn’t the right relationship for her as she needed someone who was willing to give up their time to support her.

“The first mentor didn’t work out, so I got back in touch with the IET, which was very supportive,” she says. “The staff got involved straight away and found a new mentor for me quickly.”

Nicola was introduced to her new mentor, who although worked in a different industry, had the knowledge she needed to progress.

Career support

“My mentor works as a senior engineer in the rail sector, so we come from different sectors but he’s familiar with all the usual company structures and processes – we had a commonality,” she explains. “After establishing where I was in my career and what I wanted to get out of mentoring we met every six weeks or so.”

Their mentoring relationship lasted for almost two years, with most meetings held at a workplace, with an occasional catch up in a coffee shop. They’d regularly converse via email, and Nicola would send over documents beforehand so that he could provide feedback when they’d meet.

“At the beginning I was starting a new job, so I was able to talk to him about how to establish myself there and discuss new ways of working. That was really helpful,” she says.

Help with CEng application

“Towards the end of the relationship it became more focused on my application and how I could frame my experience so it was as strong as possible. Because he had been though the process himself he had some really helpful questions for me to think about before the interview that went beyond the competencies I’d been focused on.

“When I got my CEng we went for a drink to celebrate and for me to say thank you for all his time and effort,” she adds.

Nicola believes that having a mentor really helped her along her path to chartership.

“Having a mentor definitely kept me focused. It kept me working and writing things up as I went along,” she says. “So yes, it definitely helped with my registration application, but it was also great to have a sounding board, from an external point of view. I found the soft skills support very useful too.”

When to request a mentor

Nicola is eager to recommend the mentoring scheme to others, but she does believe mentees should have a goal in mind.

“I think you have to have a particular objective you want to work towards. You need to be focused on developing some aspect of your career in order to make it worthwhile for everyone involved,” she concludes.

Interested in having a mentor?

If Nicola's story has inspired you, and you are interested in having a mentor then find out more about how to apply for a mentor.