Give your career a boost – become a mentor

mentorOnce you’ve reached a certain stage in your career, you might want to try mentoring - a great way to add an extra skill to your CV while at the same time learning from someone new coming into your industry.

Mentoring is good because it works both ways – as a mentee, you benefit from the support, expertise and contacts your mentor can give you. But mentoring is also beneficial for mentors.

Jacqui O’Beirne, Head of Digital Marketing at Dogs Trust, has been mentoring for three months. She was matched with a young marketing executive by the mentoring charity, Charity Comms.

“Mentoring has been great so far,” says Jacqui. “I did a business and finance degree 18 years ago and I don’t see myself as really using those skills in my current job. But through mentoring, I’ve realised how much I use those skills every day without realising it. I know more than I thought about budgeting and finance. It’s made me appreciate my own potential.

“And mentoring has helped in other ways: I’ve always worked in the charity sector while the young lady I mentor is in the corporate world. So not only am I seeing what my industry looks like for the new generation of marketers coming up, I’m also learning about digital marketing from a purely commercial perspective.

“In terms of time commitment it’s fine: we meet in a local café after work a couple of times a month, but we can adjust that depending on how busy we are. Otherwise it’s a case of being in touch via email so she can run things past me. I’m really happy to continue – it’s so nice to be able to share knowledge.”

Mentoring started out in the educational world and has traditionally focused on intellectual or business development, with the mentor passing on specific sector-based knowledge to the mentee. But in recent years the field has broadened to embrace a more holistic approach: many mentoring schemes now encourage the mentor to share life skills and experience along with specific business skills. 

This is great news if you’ve taken a career break and feel your business skills are a little rusty, but you have good life experience to offer:

“Mentoring is a virtuous circle – both parties get a lot out of it,” agrees MT Rainey, founder of online mentoring site, Horsesmouth. “If as a mentor you can not only give business advice but also empathise with personal issues, it makes for a better outcome. You want someone with parallel life complexity, not necessarily the same demographic. On our site we see people crossing over age, class and gender barriers all the time. Whether you’re finding a mentor or being a mentor, it’s great for everyone’s self esteem.”

If you’d like to become a mentor, here are five things to consider:

1. Many companies run in-house mentoring schemes:

If you are currently in full or part time work, find out if your organisation has an existing programme. Alternatively, if you are a member of a professional body, check if they have any schemes on offer: for example, The British Computing Society, Institute of Chartered Accountants and Women in Film & Television all regularly offer mentoring to members.

2. Be clear from the onset about what you can offer and what your expectations are: 

It may sound overly formal, but managing expectations early on will ensure that you both get what you want from the relationship. Likewise, in your first meeting you should ask your mentee what they need from you: some mentees may want access to your knowledge and contacts, others may be more in need of emotional support. If you're in a part time job, they may wish to know more about how you negotiated flexibility and how you successfully manage your workload.

3. If your time and ability to travel are limited due to children or other caring responsibilities, take a look at ementoring:

Organisations like Horsesmouth or the Brightside Trust enable people to offer expertise and support online. Through ementoring, you can manage your time in chunks, choose the people you want to mentor and log on at a time that suits you.

4. Consider mentoring for a good cause:

Hack weekends are a way of bringing together programmers and software developers with business people who understand issues and want to make a difference: try Social Innovation Camp. 
Pimpmycause is a website which links marketers with charitable causes – or try the London-wide Leaders Together programme (from Timebank) which matches business professionals with local charities.

5. Finally, be honest with yourself!

Think carefully about why you want to be a mentor: is it purely to give something back or help a good cause, or do you have specific skills you would like to develop, or a specific sector you’d like to learn more about?

Have you benefitted from mentoring in the past? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Please join the discussion on our Facebook Page, send us an update on Twitter or share your story with our LinkedIn discussion group.

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