Mentor/Mentee – who says you can’t be both?
There’s an Oprah Winfrey quote:
A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself
and as someone who has experienced the mentoring process from both a mentor and a mentee’s perspective, this is something I now appreciate more than ever.
Having started in a role as digital officer at Time to Change in 2017, I was looking for some external support in my new digital role so I applied for a mentor through the CharityComms scheme. I had to wait to be matched with an appropriate mentor, but still keen to be part of the scheme and push my boundaries, I considered becoming a CharityComms mentor.
The idea of it brought up the inevitable questioning of myself and whether I had sufficient experience, but I was soon reassured that ‘people from different sized charities and job levels can apply’. I read through the available info packs explaining how the mentoring scheme works and then further motivated by my wish to develop my managerial and coaching skills, I filled out the online application form and waited for CharityComms to work their matching magic.
My experience as a mentor and the benefits
Following my application, I was soon matched with a fellow junior communications professional, looking for advice on how to transition into a digital role. Something I felt confident about discussing as I had recent experience in it!
Having never mentored before, I had to adjust from being in ‘advice’ mode to remain neutral, listen, reflect back and only share my experience if relevant or asked. This was challenging at first but I soon adapted by reminding myself that this process was about my mentee, not me. I also learnt through the course of the mentoring that asking questions, and letting my mentee find their own answers, was key to guiding them in their desired direction and reaching their goal.
Seeing my mentee grow every month, both in confidence and knowledge, was massively rewarding, as I realised that mentoring was largely about unlocking and nurturing a person’s self-belief.
The biggest benefit of being a mentor for me was helping my mentee progress in their career. A couple of months after our mentoring relationship had ended, I was notified by LinkedIn that my mentee had been promoted to a digital role! The pride I felt at that exact moment was indescribable and will stay with me for life.
My experience as a mentee and the benefits
Although I had experienced what the scheme had to offer from a mentor’s viewpoint, I still felt in need of a mentor myself. So, I applied with a specific objective in mind and it was great when I was matched with my own mentor; a senior digital manager in the sector. Their digital expertise was exactly what I needed, as I had just taken on the role of digital lead for Time to Change’s annual campaign; Time to Talk Day. Recent user research indicated that the webpages for Time to Talk Day were too complex and unclear so I made it a priority to improve the user journeys – something my mentor played a big part in. They recommended various user journey mapping models and suggested holding a workshop with other communications colleagues to produce a user-centred design. It was so helpful being able to discuss this campaign with my mentor from start to finish as they gave me lots of interesting ideas and recommendations through the process.
As well as talking all things digital, we spoke about my employment history and career goals. My mentor also spoke about their own career journey, which allowed me to reflect on mine and consider my career aspirations.
Valuable things I learnt from doing both
As Oprah Winfrey’s quote beautifully captures; mentoring enabled me to not only inspire hope in others but inspire hope within myself. Sometimes, words and support from a stranger can be the most empowering of all.
As a mentor, I learnt that I was passionate about helping others grow and develop, which further inspired my interest in coaching.
As a mentee, I learnt new ideas and ways of doing things, which also inspired my consequent career move to a more varied comms role.
The CharityComms mentoring scheme is on the look out for mentors from all job levels and different sized charities so why not give it a go? You might just surprise yourself.
The application process for mentees recently re-opened from 28 January 2019 – 1 July 2019 and will close over the summer until September 2019.