The Importance of Mentoring for Professional Development

04 June 2019

No existing mentor scheme? No problem!


Who – Charlotte Dennison

Role – District Crown Prosecutor, currently in secondment to HMCPSI & undertaking Level 3 Diploma in First Line Management with CMI.


Amongst the cuts to public services five years ago, the varied development opportunities and secondment openings seemed to disappear overnight. Through frustration and determination to improve things I decided to take positive action myself to continue my own personal development.


CPS do not offer a mentoring scheme that is open to all staff, I initially applied to the Civil Service Learning Mentoring scheme.  Although I was approached to mentor a colleague from DWP I could not find a suitable match under the CSL criteria, so again I made the decision to tackle the issue myself and approached a Chief Constable in a neighbouring police force, who was a highly successful leader outside of CPS and the national lead on police Code of Ethics.

I think it is vital that the mentor is not your line manager, or in the direct management structure above you at work.  You need to be able to be open and honest, and the discussions that take place must remain confidential.

How it works

We met approximately every 6 months or so for 1 hour. During this meeting I was challenged, supported and always given new material to read and review which was outside the scope of expected knowledge for my current role.

Taking time to think about your own personal development is something we rarely give ourselves time to do, yet is it inextricably linked to how we feel about the job we do. You can make effort to build time into your week, it might be listening to an audio book on the way in to work (I’m currently listening to The Empathy Instinct by Peter Bazalgette, it's hard going but I'm sticking with it! Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed is also another favourite that I like to dip in and out of). Twitter can be used to broaden your outlook, or you can simply take time each week to think about your goals.

One conversation with my mentor which had an incredible impact upon me was his constant asking Why? Why choose this job? Why choose this role? You could do anything so why CPS? I was surprised by my answer; I had initially joined CPS (almost 10 years) to be an advocate and prosecute in Court, but things change. This conversation really crystallised for me that what I want to do is promote excellence in public service, alongside engaged colleagues at every level of the organisation.

The fact that someone, who was not my line manager, was prepared to give an hour of their time, but also invest time in furthering my own development had a huge positive impact upon me, as result I am a more confident and focused employee.

Mentor/Mentee relationships can also be finite, you may naturally reach the end of your relationship and start to look for a new mentor.

When I gained promotion in CPS to a new role I sought out a senior leader as a mentor within the CPS in a different Area. We meet periodically, I am invited to spend the day with the mentor, shadowing any meetings that she has, and she always makes time for us to speak 1-2-1.

Once more this has a huge impact upon me personally and professionally, not only am I highly motivated, driven to succeed and to perform to a high standard, I am better informed and gained a wider perspective of my own area of business. I am exposed to higher levels of the business and given a clear steer as to which areas on my own sphere of work I can improve and influence.

The benefits of mentoring has inspired & empowered me to put myself forward as a mentor and I have been stimulated by this. I am a mentor to CPS colleagues and for the Civil Service Leadership Academy.  It is an absolute privilege to be a mentor and the benefits from being prepared to get involved in the process should not overlooked.  I always learn something new; my leadership and management skills are widened and I am continually impressed with the dedication of civil services employees, which is truly humbling.

Don’t wait. If your organisation doesn’t have a mentor scheme don't let that hold you back from approaching someone.

Charlotte Dennison