I’ve been a mentor for almost 7 years. As an SME owner and part of the Manchester business network, it’s been my pleasure to mentor a small number of individuals as they start their career.
My mentees have usually been fresh from university, extremely keen but sometimes thrown into a job where they feel inadequate or unprepared for the expectations of their particular role. I’ve found that “Imposter Syndrome” shouts loudly with some of them.
This is where my experience of surviving in business and bringing up two daughters along the way kicks in. I can relate to the challenges they’re facing and offer support where it’s needed – a shoulder to cry on, sometimes – and then get my mentee to focus on how they can resolve the issue from their own resources.
OTHER MENTORING BENEFITS
Getting a fuzzy warm feeling from helping someone is only one of the benefits of mentoring. Because my mentees are usually at least a generation apart from me, I get a good insight into the experiences of someone entering the workforce at the current time and the challenges they are likely to face. These challenges and experiences would never normally reach my radar were it not for the interaction with my mentees. Giving advice and support goes without saying, but the overview I obtain of a world that I would never experience is priceless. I’m able to extend my understanding of the current working environment (crucial for any effective mentor).
As well as gaining insights, mentoring has given me a useful indicator of my own strengths and weaknesses and shines a big, bright light into any gaps in my knowledge. For example, one of my mentees needs to make connections and raise her profile within the arts sector. Although I can advise her on her branding and how best to package herself, I lack the relevant experience in that sector. However, working closely with her, we research to find the solutions to any questions she may have, and if we can’t find the solutions ourselves, I exploit my network of business contacts which I’ve built up over several years, for someone who will have the relevant experience. Quid pro quo.
ON BEING MENTORED MYSELF
The other side of the coin I refer to is my experience of being a mentee myself. I find having a mentor hugely useful. I’ve been carefully “matched” with an advisor (crucial to any successful mentoring relationship) and I highly value their input and experience. For instance, as a solopreneur, I can be too “close” to an issue with my business, sometimes, unable to take a step back. As my mentor isn’t as immersed in the business as I am, they have the benefit of distance and can offer a clear solution. This clarity of vision is priceless.
WOULD I EVER STOP MENTORING?
Probably not. Yes, sometimes it can add to the pressure – when a mentee contacts you with a problem when you’re in the middle of a huge project yourself and having to stop and both counsel them and help them produce a strategy, knowing they need your help there and then. But that isn’t life threatening, is it? And I know that somewhere down the line the extra effort I put in will reward not only my mentee but myself too. Both in the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve helped take the mentee to the next level and the boost to my self esteem.
Why would you stop mentoring…?
Una Cottrell is MD of Authentic – a content production and marketing strategy agency that works with clients to get them noticed and ensures that doors open to new, lucrative business. Bringing her decades of marketing and communications experience to the table, Una works with clients in tech, creative and professional service sectors.