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Making time to Mentor

Last month I participated in my first Speed Mentoring event. The concept – if you haven’t heard the term – is pretty exciting.

You get a room full of enthusiastic though inexperienced mentees who are keen to learn and develop themselves. Then organise a group of experienced (usually more senior or accomplished) peers to act as mentors. Structure a large room so that each mentor is able to move around small groupings of mentees (about 3-5) and they get a set time (say 10-15 minutes) to answer questions posed by the mentees. The nature of the questions can be determined by the mentees.

The purpose of these events is to provide opportunities for sharing knowledge, experience and guidance with the mentees. As one of the mentors, I personally found that the real value was to give each mentee a chance to engage with people who might have walked a path that they are interested in following themselves. After all, if you could question somebody who was years in front of you on the same career journey, wouldn’t you have questions too?

After the event, I got to thinking that the concept works on a number of levels. I was there in my capacity as a senior manager in my organisation and the mentees were predominantly apprentices but I would love to have had the same opportunity in other capacities. The short, sharp nature of the Speed Mentoring event means that nobody has time to delve deep into a specific issue but there is enough time to offer broad advice and sign post to further information from a diverse range of informed, enthusiastic people.

So could we apply this approach elsewhere?

As a mental health champion, I think it would be great to get a group of mentors consisting of experienced campaigners, mental health nurses, charity organisations and people who have come through difficult journeys with experiences to share. I think this group would be incredible to support mental health awareness events in any organisation as well as being an interesting technique for tackling stigma and discrimination.

As a creative writer, I think the concept works even better because of the importance of inspiration and motivation to a creative mind. I have been a young, struggling writer and I have felt that a few words of encouragement from peers can be the spark that ignites your writing fire. For many writers, there is nothing more rewarding than the opportunity to talk about the craft and the greatest risk would be getting through more than one question in 15 minutes! But think of the benefit from asking questions of someone who has been

successful in a field you are so passionate about…

Speed Mentoring is a great concept and I would welcome the chance to participate again in the future but if I could line up my own dream mentor group, for me it would include:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien – not only for creating the novel that personally inspired me to become a writer but his craft as a linguist and his attention to detail was unparalleled in the fantasy genre;

  • Martin Luther King – for those students of Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), I share the same personality type (INFJ) as this legendary civil rights activist;

  • Gene Kranz – the former NASA Flight Director and manager who oversaw the rescue of the Apollo 13 crew would have some stories to benefit any project manager;

  • Stephen King – a genre-defining writer who has bridged various media formats and is respected as a legend in his field;

  • Sir Richard Branson – not just an entrepreneur but a man with a very clear philosophy about looking after his staff;

  • Prince William – as well as being an heir to the throne, his recent speaking out on the topic of mental health would be a fascinating topic of discussion.

Ten minutes with each of these people would be life-affirming for me personally. If you could line up a group of people to give you the benefit of their experience and expertise even just for a few minutes each, who would you chose? Fantasy or reality, past or present, try to list up to seven names of people who would potentially benefit you and your aspirations in life.

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