What you should know about the PEG Mentoring Scheme

  • You wish to upgrade to Full Membership of PEG and need to meet an additional criterion for achieving this status. ‘Could a mentorship help?’ you ask yourself.
  • You’ve completed a degree course in publishing studies or attended short courses in copy-editing and proofreading. ‘Where to now?’ you ask yourself.
  • You’ve been practising – without formal training – for years and now need to equip yourself for a career or genre change. ‘How do I do it?’ you ask yourself.
  • You’ve moved from an in-house position to freelance and feel you need a helping, supportive hand. ‘Who’ll be my lifeline now?’ you ask yourself.
  • You have the required knowledge and skills but you lack two important ingredients for success as a professional practitioner: actual experience and self-confidence. And add to that, guidance and support. Can a mentorship help?

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Then this is precisely where a mentorship through a professional association such as PEG can be a great investment in yourself.

So what is mentoring, and how does it differ from training, coaching or counselling?

Training usually involves one-to-many interactions, a defined syllabus or course content and a fixed course duration, predetermined exercises and some form of evaluation. Coaching normally entails an expert collaborating with an individual who needs to work on a specific problem, weakness or skill. One resorts to counselling typically to resolve a specific personal or professional problem.

While mentoring can include elements of these three interventions, it is different from them all. For one thing, an important aspect of mentorships is that they are mentee-driven. It’s you who identifies your needs and then partners with a suitable mentor, who will focus on your expressed needs, iron out your weaknesses (including a lack of self-confidence) and play on your strengths.

Formal, informal, ‘semi-structured’, ‘reverse’ mentoring?

Mentorships can be categorised as formal, informal or ‘semi-structured’, even ‘reverse’.

In-house mentoring schemes offered by companies with the development of their managers and staff as their objective are formal. In such schemes, HR personnel usually make the matches between managers or senior staff members and juniors or less-experienced personnel.

At the other extreme, informal mentorships, although they typically occur in-house, take place almost spontaneously between colleagues. In a publishing context, for instance, a new editor might consult their more experienced or knowledgeable colleague down the passage on an ad-hoc basis. This could be regarding matters of house style or word choice, or even about something procedural, such as how to send a set of proofs to an author or who should consolidate the corrections on several sets of proofs into one set.

Associations of editors such as PEG offer a different model, one that can best be described as ‘semi-structured’. They devise a mentoring programme, find suitable mentors from among their more seasoned members (usually people who want to give back to the profession and in so doing help to uphold its good name) and then, through coordinators, help to match mentees to mentors. PEG stipulates the fee for a mentorship and its duration, and provides a safety net should a mentorship flounder. That is the structure within which mentorships run their course.

After that, however, it is up to the mentee to drive the process. The mentor ensures that the mentee’s objectives are met and that the momentum of their mentorship is maintained. Many mentorships are extended beyond the initial formal period by mutual agreement, some even developing into firm friendships.

A more recent phenomenon in the field is ‘reverse’ mentoring. Here, someone with specialised knowledge that the mentor needs to acquire hooks up with them for that specific purpose. The mentee may be young and generally inexperienced but nevertheless is the ‘expert’ in their field (e.g. at using MS Word Styles or Cloud storage technology, creating Macros in Word, or using MS Excel and PowerPoint). Typically, the mentor will generally be experienced but may lack such technical skills and expertise: as a result, in such a relationship the traditional mentoring roles are reversed, usually to great effect for both parties.

Online or e-Mentoring

With so many practitioners now working as freelancers and using electronic media such as MS Outlook, DropBox, email, Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp, a natural development from the traditional face-to-face mentorship has been either an exclusively virtual mentorship or a blend of the two. In large countries such as South Africa and Australia, moreover, it is sometimes difficult to matchmake mentors and mentees so that they can meet in person.

The result is advantageous for mentees: asynchronous mentoring across or between continents, where it is convenient to communicate with one another by email at variable times across different time zones, and where Zoom or WhatsApp meetings can be arranged at mutually suitable times, no matter where the two individuals live.

Lifelong Autonomous Learning

If ever there was a profession to which the concept of ‘lifelong learning’ applies, it is ours! As language practitioners, we need to continually keep abreast of linguistic developments, especially those deviations from the prescriptive norms that at some point we have had to accept. And when Client A has followed the Harvard style of referencing but new Client B requires us to standardise on Vancouver, MLA or APA, we have to adapt if we are to survive professionally.

We also have to be flexible enough to switch between disciplines (e.g. from earth sciences to archaeology to biomedical research). In short, we as copy editors and proofreaders should never stop acquiring new knowledge and skills. Continuing professional development (CPD) is certainly one way of going about it. Training courses and workshops do, of course, play their part. But for a confidential, nurturing, supportive experience that you can fit into your busy schedule, mentoring is the way to go.

Much about our learning as text editors is also ‘autonomous’; and it is on this basis that successful mentoring occurs: mentees are autonomous learners whether they are expressing their needs for mentoring or getting down to work on an editing assignment offered to them by their mentors (and comparing their performance against the mentors’), or setting the content and pace of their mentorship.

PEG’s Mentoring Offer

The requirements for entering a PEG mentorship are minimal: membership of the Guild and completion of some form of training in copy-editing and proofreading. Some experience is a bonus.

My mentor has guided me through my career change in a way I would never have had the confidence to do alone.

Being mentored successfully through a number of real texts and exercises has offered me professional peace of mind.

Having a mentor – someone who is more experienced or has greater expertise – can really help an editor along the way.

I’ve been able to grow faster within a safer space than I could have done on my own.

A minimum of 10 hours of interaction time, spread over a maximum of five months, at times and intervals agreed upon by the two parties.

The current cost of a PEG mentorship (up to the end of February 2022) is R2,750. This amount is payable as a non-refundable registration fee of R750 on application plus the balance of R2,000 upon being accepted as a mentee. If necessary, the balance of R2,000 may be paid in two instalments: 50% on acceptance and 50% at the end of the second month of the mentorship.

At the end of a successful mentorship, both mentor and mentee evaluate their experience and the mentor compiles a report on the mentee’s performance. The mentee is issued with a certificate of successful completion of the mentorship.

The successful completion of a PEG mentorship fulfils one of the criteria when one applies for Full Membership status of the Guild. That is a plus on your CV and your email signature!

Whether you are new to the profession, changing genre, in need of expert guidance or going freelance, shouldn’t you consider a PEG mentorship?

More details and an application form are obtainable from our national mentoring scheme coordinator, Melissa Davidson at mentoring@editors.org.za.