Mentors, where on earth do you find them? – By Rachel Murray
For a long time I have constantly been asked by folk ”do you know where I can find a mentor?” and I haven’t had a good answer. However the brilliant Rachel Murray has been working on putting something epic together.
She has done a hell of a lot of research to compile the newsletter and it contains some amazing schemes, resources and tips across a number of industries and support for underrepresented groups as well.
If you are someone or know people who either want to be mentored or might consider becoming a mentor please share this with them. Rachel really wants this to help as many people connect with role models that can help their career and professional development and/or open doors that might not otherwise be opened.
So without further a do, over to Rachel.
Well, friends, we’ve got this far. Yes, it’s the final instalment in the mentoring series. Feel like I should have booked Four Seasons Total Landscaping for the announcement or something.
Anyway, over the last five weeks, I’ve waxed lyrical about mentoring (as have my brilliant interviewees last fortnight), advised on what to look for in a mentor, how to be an awesome mentee and how to get the most out of it.
I am convinced – now more than ever – that having a mentor is one of the best things you can do to help support you through a career change, in fact your career as a whole. If I had my time again (professionally, I’m not getting all existential crisis on you – yet – there’s still time during lockdown), I would seek one out as soon as I was ready.
While I don’t regret the path I’ve taken – it led me here to Pivot! and to you all – I do think having one would have made things easier and I’d probably have been more strategic about steps I’ve taken. But mentors, like good toupées and non-orange foundation, can be hard to find. With that in mind, for the last newsletter in the series, I’ve compiled a list of tips and resources that can help you find a brilliant mentor of your own. Covfefe dear readers, covfefe.
Scheme if you wanna go faster
Mentoring schemes aren’t just the preserve of higher education, some still exist even though Jaegerbombs have become folklore and you’re considering adding eye cream to your morning routine (do it). You just have to hunt a little bit harder and in different places.First, if you’re in an employed role, look at what may be on offer within your workplace. Some companies offer formal mentoring schemes, buddy systems or at the very least, a training and development budget that could be used towards it. While they’re more common in bigger, global organisations, there a number of smaller places and startups that have seen the light and are jumping on the bandwagon. If you’re applying for jobs – actively look for the benefits they offer in this area and if unclear, ask at the interview stage.
If you’re self-employed/contracting, not-working or your company doesn’t offer one, then try the following:
- If you were lucky enough to go to university, many institutions offer alumni mentoring schemes so check out their individual websites for more information.
- If your current role/profession requires membership of a professional body- like CIPD or Women in Banking and Finance for example – many offer mentoring programmes, so check out their websites and get in touch.
- In film and tv and want to take the next step? Women in Film & TV Mentoring Scheme can help. Sadly the England applications closed at the end of last month, but for those based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, you have until 16 November 2020 to apply for the 2021 programme, which runs for six months. Similarly, the ScreenSkills Mentoring Programme runs across all sectors of the screen industry and across the UK. It is aimed at those who want to progress within or across the industry, return after a break and/or want to identify goals and drive a mentoring partnership. Applications for the 2021 scheme are open until 16 November 2020.
- Looking to break into journalism or take that step up? The Women in Journalism scheme in partnership with Tesco opens on 16 November 2020. Likewise, the Digital Women Leaders programme is open year-round and you can book a free 30-minute call if you’re looking for career advice. Along the same lines, The Freelance Journalism Assembly is a programme designed to connect and empower freelance journalists in Europe. The Assembly will include online training sessions, one-on-one mentorship activities, networking opportunities and a major event to be held in 2021.
- Trying to break into construction? FLUID offers mentoring support to women, LGBT+ and people of colour.
- From 16 – 25 November 2020, OK Mentor is running their biannual programme for women wanting to break into the creative industries – get on it while you can!
- Femme Palette offers mentoring to women in STEM looking to either break into tech or advance their careers. The Women in Technology Online Festival (ticketed) runs from 16 – 20 November 2020 and is billed to help you ‘identify role models, connect with mentors and access a professional match-making service.’
- The 30% club programmes, initially sought to achieve a greater gender balance at all levels within organisations, however, as of this year, they extended their reach with Mission INCLUDE to support individuals from all under-represented groups.
- Niche, but, if you’re a Chartered Financial Analyst, then keep your eyes on CFA UK’s mentoring programme for when it reopens next year.
- CROSSROADS – Navigating Next Steps in a Creative Career Mentoring Programme a partnership between DV Talent and The Talent Manager has unfortunately closed for this year, but given the speed at which we reached November, it will be July 2021 before you know it and time to apply for the next round.
- As it’s the 11/11 today (lest we forget), it seems only right that we finish with this number (it’s also my favourite number, but that might be because I’m born in this month – send presents!). Last but by no means least, Meet a Mentor is a free initiative founded and run by RecWorks Ltd. The community has over 1900 members (including 600 mentors) from the UK tech industry and runs an active online Slack group, meetups and 1-to-1 mentorship opportunities.
I’ve talked previously about the benefits of communities in terms of finding your tribe and building your confidence, but they can also be great places to find a mentor (I found mine via Instagram). It might feel strange asking someone you’ve only met online to be your mentor, but we live in the digital age and there have never been so many people at your fingertips.
Reaching out to someone can be daunting, but there are ways to maximise your chances of getting a yes:
- Be an active and engaged member of the community – You don’t need to be present/online all the time, but give back as much as you get. Offer advice where you can, support those reaching out and share your story – you’d be surprised how helpful it might be. The more you do this, the more connections you’ll make and the more trust you’ll build.
- Identify a couple of people within the community that you think might be good mentors and do your research – Industry, background, career trajectory, achievements etc.
- Don’t ask them publically – Send your chosen person a private message setting out who you are, what you’re looking for and what it is about them that you like/connect with. Be clear with the type and frequency of the mentoring commitment you want so they don’t have to second guess and will be more likely to give you a definitive answer.
- Be prepared for a ‘no’ – Not everyone wants (or has what it takes) to be a mentor and that will be fine because if you’ve identified more than one, you can just ask one of the others.
The same process can be used for your own immediate and extended network. Chances are you know someone or at least know someone who knows someone who knows someone. Ask for an introduction over email, or reach out directly and explain that you’re looking for career advice and support. If they say no, THANK THEM and then ask them if they could put you in touch with someone that may be more suitable. Remember everything is a learning opportunity.
When the penny drops
If you have the means to do so and want a more in-depth, tailored approach, paid-for mentoring is also available through both commercial and not-for-profit entities.
Programmes like Career Hack, services like MentorsMe or mentoring circles (group sessions run by coaches and peer mentors) or mentoring services offered by individuals who have experience in career advice, development and mentoring (looks around the room shiftily), like me and many others, there is lots of choice out there that can meet your career-changing and development needs. It’s just a matter of finding them.
To round off, I’ll leave you with a quote from a very wise person* that I heard the other day and resonated: ‘It doesn’t matter where you begin, it only matters where you end up.” Except, if you meant to be in a hotel and ended up at a garden centre it seems.
*Barack Obama, but okay yes, I did hear it on The Bold Type. Stop judging.
You know how I love a good book. And this is no exception. While it’s definitely better to have a real live person as your mentor, I fundamentally believe in the power of others’ stories to help you learn and develop your career.In Getting There, thirty leaders in diverse fields share their secrets to navigating the rocky road to the top including the obstacles faced, the setbacks they endured, and the vital lessons they learned.
Finally, in case you don’t have anything better to do during lockdown (N.B. I’m 100% sure you do, and no, it doesn’t have to be goal-reaching, workout-smashing productivity, whatever gets you through, is good enough). If you’ve run out of things to binge-watch first, I recommend The Bold Type on Prime (judge me all you want, but one day I will work for Scarlet). But in keeping with this newsletter, here are the 10 top TED talks on mentorship. Enjoy!As always, if you have any further questions about this newsletter post or want to know anything about the career-changing process in general, then don’t hesitate to drop me an email or message me on Instagram or Twitter.Finally, I don’t get paid to write this newsletter as it’s a labour of love and I genuinely want to share what I’ve learned to help others. So, if you like what you read and fancy shouting me a tea (I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t drink coffee) or hot chocolate, I have set up a Kofi account which allows you to do so, safe in the knowledge that it would be very much appreciated!
Thank you so much for putting this together Rachel. You rock!
By Alicia Teagle
A voice for diversity in tech <3