Christine Bowles, Head of Marketing & Communications at Renaix, is a Career Ready mentor at Sir John Cass Redcoat School in East London. Here, she shares her experience of being a mentor and how it has added value to her team’s professional development.
There are numerous schemes to mentor managers and leaders in the workplace and support business growth and personal development, but less so for those at the very start of their careers. However, it’s young people who may need that extra bit of help with the self-belief, motivation, and confidence necessary to achieve a successful future and career.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can honestly say it’s been a revelation. It is the feel-good factor in helping someone at the very start of their career journey.
CSR for all business – large and small
Our recruitment and executive search firm, whilst large in terms of international footprint, like many other SMEs have limited human and financial resources. Therefore, as keen as we were to build upon our CSR activities, we weren’t sure if this would be possible by partnering with a charity. Indeed on researching the subject, it was confirmed that most charities are looking for a significant commitment in terms of resources.
However, upon further research, one charity fitted the bill exactly, reflecting our company’s mission within the employment space. Career Ready is a national charity operating locally, linking schools and colleges with employers to prepare young people for the world of work. Through mentors, using knowledge and experience to support learning, young people are able to gain an understanding of careers and the right attitudes and professional skills needed to gain employment. The charity asks for just one fundraising event to be held per year, with no minimum fundraising amount, and a monthly commitment for mentoring, just a few hours in the evening. There are also masterclasses in chosen professional disciplines that you can present to students (from a well-prepared brief) although this is not obligatory.
Reflect upon your own career journey
The application process is straightforward and you are given the necessary forms in order to apply for DBS clearance. Once confirmed, a mentee is assigned and you are invited to a Career Ready icebreaker event. A mentor handbook is provided to track the progress of monthly goals and skills for career success (SfCS) and you are invited to masterclasses and a summer networking reception throughout the mentoring year.
At the start, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I can honestly say it’s been a revelation. There is the feel-good factor in helping someone at the start of their career journey, passing on the benefit of knowledge and experience and the different routes to success, reward in itself. However, there is also the added benefit of building upon your own leadership, motivation, performance and presentation skills, all uniquely empowering. I was placed with the excellent Sir John Cass Redcoat School in Stepney, London and my first mentee, a bright, enthusiastic and ambitious seventeen-year-old, so motivated and driven that she herself was mentoring younger students at a nearby school.
A progressive, accessible and powerful charity
There is a real sense of pride in seeing your mentee grow in confidence and progress with your support and guidance. During this year, my mentee sourced and completed her own work experience, summer school, and internship and won first prizes for writing and debating. She is now studying hard for her A-Levels, and all being well, is set to get into one of the top London universities to read English this year and hopefully a career in journalism. There was also the chance for me to present a masterclass on an industry specialism and passion, brand marketing. Inspiring and motivating a class of year 12s is certainly an interesting lesson in itself.
At the summer reception, we networked with other mentors and mentees. Most people I know (including myself) would have been more than a little daunted to attend a networking event at a top investment bank in the City in their teens but these young people took it all in their stride, receiving helpful guidance and support and coming away with a lot of useful contacts. There aren’t many CEOs and ex-editors of national newspapers that would link with a young person, follow up with an invitation to attend a media event and freely admit that over half their connections on LinkedIn were students, but then this was the CEO of Career Ready, Anne Spackman.
They help you too
I’ve learned what’s best in teen fiction and how to draft a university personal statement, handy for my own children. But much more than this, I’ve been able to help someone just starting out, a terrific feeling, and my team at work, for not much more than a few hours employee commitment a month, and with all the necessary backup, can partner at a local level with a national charity as part of our CSR programme. I’m now into my second year of mentoring and have just come back from the icebreaker, having been placed with my new mentee. He’s thrashed me in the quiz, loves tech and coding and has told me he’s building himself a “smart mirror”. No doubt I will learn more about what this means as we go along but with mentoring it’s just as much to do with learning about yourself. So what are you waiting for? Get involved!