What I've relied on from mentors is the fact that they are individuals who provide a safe environment. You know that you can talk openly to them and respect them as pragmatic people who will push you and steer you in the right direction.
I was 29 when I became an HR director at Marconi and I relied on mentoring for guidance and advice. I wasn't involved in a formal mentoring scheme, but found a mentor for myself - Kathy Jenkins. She showed me a second way of thinking about things and challenged my thought processes. She also knew about delivering in a pressurised role.
Kathy was my first - and best - mentor. She was an HR director then and had a good grasp of what mentors should do, and what coaching is all about.
She's about a decade older than me, and spent those 10 years working her way up through HR. When we met, she had the benefit of some fantastic experience.
We met every six weeks or so, for informal catch-ups. One of the good things about Kathy is that she talked not just about work, but about feelings, too - she would ask how I was feeling, and whether I was happy with how thingswere going.
I was stepping up to a big job for the first time, and that emotional and psychological support was important, particularly in terms of security and self-confidence.
I don't have a mentor at the moment, but thinking about this has made me realise that it's time to look for one.
Julie Armstrong, HR director, Manchester Airport