To understand the concept of ‘mentoring’ it is first necessary to determine what exactly mentoring is.  This however seems to be easier said than done with Clutterbuck (1996:1) noting that ‘the biggest problem for researchers into mentoring is still defining what it is’ and Roberts (2000:3) using the term ‘definitional quagmire’. Hall (2003:9) partly explains this by stating ‘Mentoring is not one thing: it is a range of possibilities.  Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why there is so little agreement about its definition and why so much of the language used about it seems to lead to confusion rather than clarification’. Philip (1999:6) describes mentoring as follows: ‘Mentoring can hold a range of meanings and the terminology reveals a diverse set of underlying assumptions.  A similar range of terms may apply to the mentee, protégé, client, apprentice, aspirant, pupil etc.’

The roots of the term ‘mentor’ are commonly traced back to the figure of mentor in Homer’s Odyssey who was said to be the protective, guiding and supporting figure who acted as a wise and trusted counsellor to Telemachus.  However Colley (2000a:1) argues that this is a misreading and if there is any ‘mentoring’ done it is by the goddess Athene.  She then goes on to state that the modern associations of ‘mentor’ are held within Fenellon’s Les Adventures de Telemaque from the eighteenth century.

“Mentoring is the ‘in’ thing” (Colley 2000a:1, 2003:1).  In her article ‘Exploring myths of mentor’ (2000a:1), she then goes on to document the way that mentoring has become highly popular in the past decade as an ingredient of policy solutions; for example in the fields of teaching, nursing, careers guidance, business and increasingly in compulsory and post compulsory education – particularly within the area of social exclusion.  ‘mentoring has become mainstream. It appears in all major new youth transition programmes, such as the New Deal and the Learning Gateway, with their networks of personal advisers and proposals to involve volunteer mentors as well.  The Connexions strategy (DfEE 2000)…proposes to create a new profession of learning mentors (for young people in schools) and personal advisers (for those in post-16 transition).’ (Colley, 2000a:1).  Volunteer mentors (business mentors, community mentors, intergenerational mentors, university student mentors, mentors with specialist knowledge) and learning mentors.

Learning mentors

The role of the learning mentor was launched in England in 1999 as part of the new government initiative ‘Excellence in Cities (EiC)’.  This was a new initiative that resulted from the recognition in the White Paper ‘Excellence in Schools’ (DfEE, 1997) that the persistent problem of low achievement and the growing problem of social exclusion needed to be tackled ‘inclusive schooling which provides a broad, flexible and motivating education that recognises the different talents of all children and delivers excellence for everyone’.


The Learning Mentor strand was one of the areas of the Excellence in Cities initiative put in place to tackle this transformation of urban education alongside City Learning Centres, Specialist Schools, Gifted and Talented, Beacon Schools, Learning Support Units and Education Action Zones.



A goal of many individuals is to be successful and satisfied in their careers and/or jobs. While there are many ways an individual can achieve this end (Runciman, Dewar and Goulbourne, 2008) one method in particular; i.e. securing a mentor, has been receiving an increasing amount of attention in the management literature in the last decade Kolb, (2004). Many definitions have been proposed to describe the process of mentoring (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995). In general, mentoring is considered to be a developmental relationship that enhances both an individual’s growth and advancement (Allen, 1995)).


Research by Allen, and her colleague (Gray, 1998)) attempted to explain how this occurs. They did this by conducting biographical interviews with middle to upper level managers in a public utility and manufacturing firm. At this,  mentors provided their mentored with career and psychosocial functions which includes sponsorship, exposure, visibility, coaching, protection and challenging assignments as well as role models, providing friendship, counseling, acceptance and confirmation. As a result of these activities the mentoree’s sense of competence, identity and work role effectiveness augmented, the end result being career enhancement and advancement. Similarly, a few studies have attempted to systematically investigate the outcomes of mentoring relationships from the mentoree’s perspective (Clutterbuck, 1988 and Field, 1999)). Of those that have been conducted few have compared the perceived career/job experiences of mentorees to those of non-mentorees (National Mentoring Consortium 1995)). Such contrasts would allow investigators to determine how well mentorees perceive they are doing in contrast to ‘those of us’ without mentors.


Nevertheless, research conducted so far suggests that mentoring may enhance the careers of high level men (Truer, 1997) found that the most successful corporate male chairman have had mentors. As reported by Roche (1979), in a study by Heidrick and Struggles, Inc., higher salaries and bonuses were awarded to male executives who had mentors than to those who did not. Mentors enhance the careers and job situations of individuals who are in less opportune positions in organizations. Traditionally, women and individuals in lower management/supervisory levels have occupied these slots (Runciman, Dewar, and Goulbourne, 2008). If mentorship can enhance career/job situations as contended, then women and/or lower level mentorees should be able to experience the same degree of career/job success and satisfaction as men and / or high level individuals. Alternatively, it could be argued that since women and lower level individuals have less opportunity, a mentor may be less helpful although no evidence as to the extent.


Also, little is known about whether female mentorees experience the same level of benefits as male mentorees. Typically, research in this area has compared the responses of female mentorees to responses reported in the literature by male mentorees (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995). This procedure is problematic since different organizational structures and processes have been noted to affect the reported outcomes of mentor-mentoree relationships (Allen, 1995). Believing that mentoring can bring benefits to both the individuals (mentorees and mentors) on the organization, especially in helping to accelerate the development of the young and newly recruited and improve their performance, private companies in Nigeria in recent times have embarked on implementing their mentoring programme.


This is moreso in private oiling and gas companies in Nigeria. Male and female yearly for its expansion projects both domestically and abroad. The companies are well known for its commitment to Human Resource Development and firmly believe in its contributions to the business performance. Also, the companies believe that mentoring process can help the new recruits understand the company’s goals and objectives and challenges, and, acquire the right competence and experience quickly. The companies also believes that mentors can help the mentorees (new recruits) realize their potentials and add value to the company’s performance quickly and effectively. The companies mentoring as an alternative method of career development fosters talent within the organizations.



Mentoring programme as an attraction approach for personal and professional development has suffered some set backs in career development for unclearly understood bounds or terms in agreement between the mentor and mentee. To this effect, monitoring full implementation of formulated programme in mentoring becomes difficult to the extent that the mentee may not establish his/her own independence or career development.  There is also the problem in mentors and mentees relationship on job performance especially when mentees outshine the mentor or error committed on job performance by the mentees is shifted to mentors. This position could cause inefficiencies in both service delivery and resource (especially personnel) development in organizations. In the light of the above explanation, this study assess the prospects and challenges of mentoring programme as alternative strategy in developing manpower resources for sustainable growth of organizations.



The main theme of the study is to review mentoring programmes as an alternative approach for personal and professional development in organizations, using selected private companies in Nigeria oil and gas industry. Other objectives are, to;