WHY I VALUE MENTORING SO MUCH
HANNAH ALEXANDER-WRIGHT, OWNER
ALEXANDER-WRIGHT | LONDON, UK
Today is an important day as I have just emailed my new mentee...as arranged by the Aspire Foundation, which supports the mentoring of women and girls from around the world.
I am trying to arrange a Skype “chemistry session”, a no obligation chat to see if we can work together as mentor and mentee. Yseult, a young professional woman, living and working in Belgium will be my second mentee, organised by Aspire.
My last mentee worked at a university in the UK and wanted to develop her marketing career and, over six sessions, we worked together to help raise her profile and plan her career path. My experience of coaching and mentoring started around eight years ago, when I was rapidly promoted as a result of my manager going on maternity leave. After discussing my reservations with my director, I was assigned an external coach, who challenged my preconceptions of leadership, helping me become a more effective senior manager. My coach helped me with my confidence at a very precarious point of my career, and this made me want to coach and empower others.
I got my ILM coaching and mentoring qualification five years’ ago, and coached numerous people from inside and outside the university I used to work at. I have coached people through career changes and promotions, with dealing with difficult managers and teams, and those with confidence and behavioural issues. It has been a privilege to enable people to understand and then take ownership of their issues and their actions to achieve their goal.
Coaching is usually a short, sharp course of sessions which explore the coachee’s Goals, the Reality of the situation, exhaust the Options available and then hold the coachee to account by writing down what action they will take. This classic model is called the GROW model and used by coaches around the world. The coach facilitates this process and the coachee makes the choices and acts on them.
Mentoring is different to coaching, but often the terms are used inter-changeably. The way I have been taught is that mentoring is more about giving advice, based on experience. If I am coached, I expect to come up with the options and answers myself.
When I speak to my mentor, however, I will ask for his advice, based on his experience. Although I mentor for an organisation exclusively for women and girls, my own mentor is a man. His name is Andrew, he’s extremely supportive, has been with me throughout my whole marketing career and since I’ve gone freelance, he is (thankfully) just a Skype call away. We share the same feminist values, sense of humour and love of a good Rioja.
My career is stronger for having good mentors. When I decided to go freelance, Andrew was one of the first people I showed my website to as I value his opinion as a successful entrepreneur. His advice is sometimes challenging and sometimes I disagree with him but having another opinion is always useful and he continues to help me develop as a businesswoman. Coaching and mentoring are indispensable parts of our continuing professional development.
As a woman, it is important to find a coach or mentor who not only supports women but is aware of the potential difficulties and inequalities that we face in our careers, particularly in this culturally diverse industry. My mentor is aware and embarrassed by the sexism that still exists in our industry and helps me through it. He never dismisses it, or says. I shouldn’t worry about it. A good coach or mentor should enhance, enable and empower you, helping your career blossom.
As much as I get out of having a mentor and coach, I also benefit from being one. It is rewarding to see people I coach and mentor grow in confidence and start to understand themselves and their goals. We are never too young or old to benefit from giving or receiving help from other like-minded people in our industry. I just hope I can help Yseult as much as Andrew helps me.