Blog title on background image - training, mentoring and understanding the illusion of short term mentorship

Cyber security is an interesting, fast moving and in demand industry. 

On the one hand, we are constantly being told there are not enough professionals to fill the need.  Yet without clear pathways, it can be challenging to find roles at the beginning of your journey – or understand different opportunities for progression when you are established.

To drive your career forward, it can be important to distinguish between training and mentoring and understand the different benefits each offers. 

Our Technical Director and Head of Training Dan Cannon, draws on his own experiences to debunk the myth of short-term mentoring schemes and discuss the true meaning of mentorship.

What is the difference between training and mentoring

Let’s start off with a simple comparison:

The illusion of relationship building

The term mentoring implies a sustained relationship built on trust, communication, and the existence of a long-term supporter and confidant for the mentee. These relationships take time to build, and the idea that a mentor relationship can be established and completed in a matter of days is simply unattainable.

As someone who has personally benefited from mentors, I’ve invested months in building relationships with these guiding figures. The invaluable guidance I’ve received has been a cornerstone of my professional development, adapting as my goals and circumstances evolve. It’s essential to recognise that none of this support and guidance could be adequately provided in a one-off series of sessions held over a few days.

True mentoring requires a mentor’s commitment to understanding the unique challenges and aspirations of the mentee and providing suitable, individual, and ongoing guidance. This commitment goes beyond delivering a mere increased skill set; it extends to providing clarity on how to use those skills effectively and supplementing them for long-term success.

At North Green, we understand that true mentorship is not a quick fix or a box to be ticked —it’s an ongoing relationship that matures with time and can be beneficial at every stage of your career.  The commitment to understanding the mentee’s unique challenges demands a depth of interaction that surpasses the limitations of a brief encounter.

Training disguised as mentoring

Let’s be honest.  Both training and mentoring have value, each catering to specific goals and aspirations.  Training is invaluable as a method to develop skills and capabilities, but when training is marketed as mentoring, there is a risk of false expectations.

It’s important to look at the language used by providers to distinguish between structured training sessions and the ongoing commitment required for mentorship

When professionals enrol in programs described as ‘x day mentorship’ programs, in the pursuit of skills enhancement and career progression, and find themselves in what turns out to be a structured training course, they are losing out on the benefit of genuine mentorship.

With short-term mentorship programs, mentees can suffer from:

  • Inadequate investment: participants encounter time-bound sessions with minimal post-program engagement. The promised mentorship, in reality, resembles a brief training sprint, lacking the necessary ongoing support crucial for sustained success.
  • Lack of personal progression: genuine mentorship evolves over time, offering tailored support as individuals navigate new challenges and opportunities. The accelerated pace of these programs leaves little room for personal progression.
  • Shallow exploration of topics: we all have unique strengths and weaknesses, but without enough time to discuss individual issues, it is not possible to dive into key areas that would benefit the mentee.
  • Lack of ongoing support: authentic mentorship extends beyond traditional training timeframes and curriculum. Without ongoing support, the ability to navigate real-world challenges can be tough.

Transformation guidance vs transactional learning

Short training programs, measured in days, are very good at focussing on the transfer of skills within a fixed timeframe.  They are typically aimed at achieving a short-term goal.  By contrast, mentoring can be transformational, as it goes beyond mere skills and focusses on an individualised and holistic approach to professional growth. 

Key elements of transformational mentorship:

  • Long-term commitment: transformational mentorship involves a sustained commitment to the mentee’s growth, adapting to changing circumstances and goals over an extended period.
  • Personalised development plans: the mentor works collaboratively with the mentee to craft personalised development plans, ensuring alignment with individual aspirations and challenges.
  • Regular check-ins and progress reviews: continuous engagement through regular check-ins and progress reviews allows for ongoing refinement of skills and strategies, fostering a dynamic learning environment.
  • Flexible learning paths: unlike rigid training structures, transformational mentorship accommodates flexible learning paths, tailored to the unique needs and aspirations of each mentee.

It’s your choice

And that’s the key thing here – as previously mentioned, both mentoring and training have their own place, benefits, and part to play in your personal career development.  There is no right or wrong.

But don’t be fooled by marketing labels.

Make sure you carefully evaluate the opportunities that training and mentoring providers offer.  Choose programs that align with your goals and don’t confuse the two, or mistake training courses for true mentorship.

If you’re ready to work toward your career goals, explore our training courses designed to provide the skills needed to be successful in your role or the pursuit of new qualifications.  Alternatively, consider our longer-term mentoring offerings, where you’ll received personalised advice, guidance, and knowledge tailored to your unique ambitions.

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