Friday, 18 November 2016


So, I've not written for a while.  I've been mad-busy at work, with my own business, mentoring and most recently have just agreed to take on the accounts prep for my friend's charity.  All good, solid stuff.

I've done quite a bit recently on the mentoring side.  I've now got three mentees who I meet up with regularly.  It's quite an interesting thing.  We tend to meet up, have a brew and talk about what they've been up to.  Sometimes they'll bring problems in and we just talk through those things.

I recently did some "next-level voodoo" stuff with the Civil Service and IIBA on action learning, and the emphasis there is to just ask question upon question of the mentee until they come up with the answer themselves.  It works well, but it can be torture for both the mentee and the mentor.  If you've never tried the technique, then you should give it a try.  Personally, I prefer a more direct approach, with "challenging conversations" to cover those difficult moments when you have to deal with certain issues clearly but sensitively.

So, mentoring is the opportunity to get that level of engagement from someone who's highly driven, reasonably successful and prepared to volunteer their time to help mentees.

I attended a mentoring evening this evening, which was really good and really well set up.  I really enjoyed the structure of how it was set up.  They had a "meet the mentors" panel at the beginning and then we moved into tables and got questions from the various different students.

I spoke with a few groups and was a bit shocked that the students thought that mentors were there to offer them jobs.  I said to people that I spoke to, "Mentoring isn't about offering you a job, it's about a discussion over time that'll help you to develop".  I talked about setting your own business up, how the "gig economy" was taking off and that you could either work in a company or be the company.  I talked about business models, multi-strand income models and all sorts of things.  But I got a distinct idea that it came back to "got any jobs?"

This is a shame.  The mentors had a wealth of skills and advice to give, lots of opportunities, but it was all about "got a job?"

YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT.  THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO GET A LEG UP.  And it may or may not lead directly to a job…but it probably won't.  What it will do for you, is help you to gain an insight into how your mentor thinks and deals with situations that you find yourself in.  The discussions can be about anything, from teamwork to job applications.

I even offer my mentees more than that, I say to them that we'll set the regular meetings, but also that I'm there to discuss things as needed (usually done via WhatsApp, but could be phone or Skype) because I recognise that the need for a tune-up doesn't necessarily wait for the monthly meetup.  But it's driven by the mentee.

I discussed the "got a job" thing with my wife later and she said that even her ex, who ended up working for KPMG or someone like that, didn't get in straight away.  It took experience, entrepreneurship and top marks to get that.  His approach was to temp in various firms for a few years and that gave him enough background to get his foot in the door.  I didn't know that earlier, but I actually said that complete solution myself, because I'd seen that work for others in the past.  It's good experience but also a "try before you buy" - do you like the thing that you're opting to do.

So, you have to have the "plan B" (and probably a few more plans too) in case the graduate scheme doesn't come good.  Relying on getting that graduate scheme opportunity may leave you without anything until you hit the ground with a bump several months later, thinking "OK, what now…?"

Overall though, I was impressed that the potential mentees had plenty of options.  In most cases, it was the difficulty in making those decisions that was the problem.  A mentor won't make those decisions for you though.  They can only really help you to make those decisions for yourself.

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