Get more, be a mentor! (or mentee!)
Having a mentor is a hugely valuable experience. Having someone to talk to, share experiences with and open your eyes to opportunities is crucial in the world of work.
I’ve been in a lot of training in my time and often it’s great to learn new skills or how to deal with generic problems, but it doesn’t tackle your issues in a focussed and targeted way – mentoring does this. Being a mentor is equally important as it helps you to develop skills such as coaching and can push you out of your comfort zone as well as giving something back.
I joined the IoF London Region mentoring programme a year ago as a mentor. I wanted to use my experience to support others in the sector. I think it’s so important that experienced fundraisers share their knowledge with others so that we can continue to grow and improve as a sector.
What stands this programme out is the fact that you sign a contract with your mentor/mentee to commit to a year’s worth of sessions. You also get equipped with some great training and a peer support network.
I was reading an Australian coaching website the other day and they gave ‘10 benefits of having good mentors’. I thought their benefits made sense and I’d tackle each of them in the context of the IoF London Region Mentoring programme, but I’ve reduced it down to 5 speed things up!
1. Knowledge, contacts, insight and business skills
Mentors and mentees are matched during a day of high octane meeting sessions. You spend 30 mins with each of your potential matches which flies by and I found it fascinating to get that window into someone’s work life. As part of this you also get initial training and the mentors get another day of specific training with the fantastic Mark Hughes. In all of these sessions, mentors are encouraged to share their knowledge and contacts.
I have tried to do this as much as possible with my mentee. I’ve taken experts in certain areas (that I know less about) into a mentoring session and introduced my mentee to others that may be useful to them. This has helped extend their contacts and give them a wider pool of knowledge to draw on. This can also bring insight into other organisations and other job roles or disciplines.
2. Life skills, perspective and vision
You end up discussing all sorts in your sessions, depending on your relationship, as it is tough juggling work and life experiences. Discussing these can stretch your thinking about life goals as well as career goals. It can also bring things into perspective and give you the feeling of ‘it’s not just me that’s going through this’.
3. Reduced feelings of isolation
I’m lucky in that I work in a reasonably big fundraising team. I’ve also worked hard at building my network, but it is harder for people in smaller charities with smaller teams. Mentoring can reduce the feelings of isolation and take the fear factor away from making tough decisions for mentees.
My mentee is from a small charity and being able to support them when there is no real peer support is invaluable.
4. Wisdom and learning from past experiences and a sounding board
Everyone makes mistakes and often the mentor can draw on mistakes they’ve made in the past. This can also give the mentee a sounding board to test ideas and discuss points of view in a confidential environment.
I have found myself talking about mistakes I’ve made in the past, especially with people management, but hopefully my mentee will learn from that and not make the same ones!
5. Improved performance, talent development and becoming a good mentor
Good mentors provide valuable feedback or make suggestions that enable you to improve skills or to experience personal growth. This may also lead to developments in terms of your best talents if a mentor can identify them.
Part of the training induction of this programme gives the mentees a skills audit which it’s important to run through in sessions. This has helped my mentee identify specific talents and we’ve worked on areas to improve or enhanced areas that they are good at.
By the end the experience of working with a good mentor, it will also serve as a good training ground to become a mentor yourself.
All in all, I can’t recommend the IoF London Region’s mentoring programme enough. As a mentor you are supported to the right levels and given the tools and training to do a great job. As you are giving up your time, what you get in return is fantastic.
Get involved as a mentor or a mentee, enhance your career and get out there in the sector. You really do get more!
Tom Dixon, Legacy Manager, Scope and IoF London Region Mentor since June 2015
Want to benefit from being a mentor or mentee? Join the IoF London scheme