By Charlotte Bonner-Evans, Mentoring Partnership Manager
Researchers and innovators face many distinct challenges, stemming from research projects, managing interdisciplinary teams, working with people across different organisational cultures, not to mention how busy everyone is, and the imposter syndrome that convinces us everyone knows more than we do! These themes are commonly identified by members of this network as shared challenges. Peers are uniquely able to relate to our context and experiences, offering understanding, support, and advice as a result. This is why we have designed a bespoke peer-led programme for the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network.
Peer group mentoring allows you to share your thoughts, experiences, and to collaborate with your peers. Through working with your peers, you can not only realise the value of discussing issues with those who are facing similar experiences, but also how much you can support others too. Peer group mentoring is based on the evidence that the value of mentoring is reciprocal, allowing space for multiple ideas and views to be shared, discussing problems, and reflecting on experiences (Heikkinen et al., 2020).
Knowing that peer support is available and that you are not in competition with others but instead working towards shared goals, helps to develop ‘meaningful interactions and a sense of relatedness’ (Baik et al., 2017 p. 18). This is an important networking intention in the wake of increased feelings of isolation and loneliness as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, the expectation for interdisciplinary working is increasing for researchers and innovators and finding common ground across disciplines is important.
In a blog for this Network, ‘Building a repertoire beyond advice’, our Mentoring Consultant, Dr Kay Guccione, emphasised that context and experience are important in how we resolve problems and plan our development. Working in peer mentoring groups allows you to work on shared challenges and experiences with others who are working in similar contexts.
The benefits of peer group mentoring include:
- a space for sharing and reflection
- problem solving
- empowerment to take action
- strengthening of professional identity
- motivation and well-being.
Peer Perspectives, the Network’s peer group mentoring offer facilitated by subject area experts, is all about sharing personal experiences, solving genuine problems and answering questions alongside your peers, and constructing communities of Fellows engaged in common interests. In an environment with your peers and an expert facilitator in the subject, opportunities for development of yourself and others are rich.
Peer Perspectives takes place in just two meetings. In the first you set yourself some small actions and support your peers to do the same. Planning the second meeting date provides a timeframe for you to take action, as you meet again to review progress and report back on how it went.
Share experiences and challenges with your peers, you will find that they understand and have experienced something similar! (Huizing R.L., 2012)