My experience as a mentor

About a year ago Ben started mentoring a small charity through Timebank’s awesome Leaders Together programme. It was a fantastic experience. Here’s why… 

My motivations

We have spoken to quite a few people about why they do skilled mentoring, whether that be as a trustee or through a skilled mentoring programme. The reasons vary, but I suppose mine were quite typical: I felt I had experience to offer and wanted to do something that I felt to be worthwhile with that experience. It had to be outside the realm of “work” – that was important – so that it did not feel like part of the grind of obligation, and it had to be reasonably flexible to suit my chaotic hours.

What it entailed

The process was fairly straightforward. I was lucky in that my match was with a great person in a charity did exciting things and well. You can find out more about them here.

The basic idea is pretty simple: I was matched with a mentee by TimeBank’s Leaders Together program. They discuss with you what you can offer and then find someone who broadly needs those skills. You meet and, if you get on, embark on a 6 month mentoring programme. You set some objectives at the start, so you have a way to gauge how useful it has been, and meet on a (usually) weekly basis for about an hour. My mentee and I usually met in the coffee shop at Southwark Cathedral where we could relax in a pleasant environment and enjoy the (occasional) day of sunshine.

We usually kept to the objectives set out at the start, and we did achieve quite a few of them. More importantly, my mentee felt more confident about tackling some of the objectives herself. And that is the real trick I think. My specialism is marketing and business development, and there is nothing too complicated about it. But if you are new to a subject then often you lack the confidence and have a “fear of failure”. So it is nice to have someone telling you that a) there isn’t any special trick and b) getting things wrong is OK.

Why I enjoyed it

As I’ve been thinking about Crowd Guru I have reflected on my own motivations and mentoring experience. I think the big things that contributed to me enjoying it are:

  • It’s a social thing: I really enjoyed the company. My mentee was articulate and interesting and we always had a topic of conversation so the sessions were fun (and frequently over-ran).
  • It’s an expertise thing: People like to be good at things and will spend a lot of their time practicing the guitar, for example, just for the pleasure of “doing it well”. Its no different for work (check out this video for more on this). Mentoring allowed me to do what I was good at, free of any of the B.S. that comes with a job.
  • It’s a “power and glory” thing: There is no denying it, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had from someone genuinely appreciating what you have done.
  • It’s an adventure: The charity was something very new to me, and I was using my skills outside of their normal sphere. So I learned a lot and experienced something very new. A bit like walking down the Koh San Road for the first time, but with less rotting tropical fruit.

I didn’t register much that I was doing this for a charity. In fact the charity status of the organisation was not really important once I started getting into the swing of it.

Would I recommend mentoring to other people?

Absolutely, yes! Mentoring took about 24 hours out of my year. Just one day. But the rewards are incredible and go far beyond some vague feeling of having “done something good”. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, drop us a line at weloveyou@crowdguru.org.

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