Participating in a mentoring scheme has given me the opportunity to work in a space that is completely different to the one I occupy in my professional life. It has given me invaluable knowledge and insight that I may never have discovered elsewhere.
I’m working with girls aged between 12 and 14, many of whom are suffering with self-esteem or aspiration issues. The programme is offered by Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise that focuses on the empowerment of teenage girls.
I fully recommend you take any opportunity to mentor. At first I was apprehensive about becoming a ‘Big Sister’ (the name given to mentors on the Girls Out Loud programme). No matter how much safeguarding training and support I was given, no-one can predict exactly what worries and problems a teenage girl will present to you… and that scared me. However, my nervousness didn’t last long; the more time I spent with my Little Sister the more I learnt about her and the more confident I felt in guiding her.
You not only get to make a positive difference to your mentee, but improve yourself in so many ways. As a mentor I’ve been able to reflect upon my own leadership skills and qualities and adapt my work style and tactics for the better. I’ve discovered a lot about myself; I’ve been so focused on guiding and advising my mentee I’ve realised that I often neglect to do this for myself. If I want to appear inspirational to someone else, I first need to understand and inspire myself.
Creating a positive impact on your workforce
Mentoring can benefit a company just as much as individuals. It builds confidence and that's infectious within a team. While you may not use your mentoring skills within your company in the same way you did with your mentee, the transferability of the techniques and understanding that you develop have endless applications. The sense of achievement that you feel as a mentor is an enormous motivator. I find that I am much more focused on fulfilling my aspirations, and I don’t underestimate the value of having goals.
Helping the next generation
If we want to drive our country forward, then the next generation workforce needs to be filled with strong female leaders and professionals. But for this to happen we need to help one another. Since working as a role model for Girls Out Loud I’ve realised how important it is to focus on the women of the future. As a Big Sister I’ve been able to offer a young girl one-to-one support for an entire year.
The teenagers that participate in the programme may have an unstable home life, be experiencing a difficult time at school, or may have troubled relationships with friends. I was able to offer confidential guidance to someone that may not have received it elsewhere. For any companies looking to future-proof, investing in future employees is essential. I’d go so far as to say it’s our moral obligation.
Loretta Smith is HR global lead at pladis Global