Let me preface this piece by saying I have always been, and will always be, a HUGE fan of mentoring. As a tool for growth, development and self-reflection is it, in my humble opinion, unparalleled. It is also wonderfully flexible, personal, and cost-effective.
I was lucky that from an early time in my career I was able to identify strong, confident, high-achieving women from whom I could learn, and for some inexplicable reason wanted to take the time to support my growth. All of my mentoring relationships in the past had grown organically, through an introduction or a shared objective and there are few areas of my personal and professional growth and success in which one, or all of these women have not had a hand in helping me cultivate.
This was all well and good when I was in the UK, my home country, with a robust network built up over many years and a job that allowed me to go out and meet so many different people. But having relocated 18 months ago to a new city, I woke up every day feeling like I was starting over and suddenly, like losing an arm or my iPhone, I found that my Rolodex was empty and I was living through a whole new set of challenges for which I felt wholly unprepared. This was when it really hit me just how instrumental to my success and professional well-being my mentors had been, and gave me just the kick up the backside I needed to get back out there!
Enter Thrive with Mentoring, a formal network of mentors and mentees that is exploding across the world quickly from humble beginnings in Zurich at the end of last year. I was at first reluctant to take part in a formal programme; as I said above, mentoring had always been very organic for me, not just in terms of finding my mentors, but also in turn mentoring other women in my social and professional sphere. But it has been, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most rewarding experiences I could have hoped for.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of formal mentoring, think speed dating, but without the awkward ‘will they won’t they’ vibe. In committing to being part of the programme you become a member of a cohort of women all interested in the same thing you are…growth. You are matched with a mentor or mentee with whom you commit to working over the course of a year and you and she are in charge of how that develops. It’s empowering, and exciting at the same time.
My mentor and I have met once a month, usually early in the morning when we are both fresh and full of energy. I come prepared with some broad topics I want to discuss and then we take a meander through her experience, my experience and I come away inspired, full of ideas that I am eager to put into practice. And you know what… I think she does too!
Reflecting on the experience so far, there are a few things that I feel confident have made this particular mentoring journey a joy thus far…
– Preparation…I’ve come to enjoy taking time the evening before our sessions reading over my notes from prior sessions, focusing on my actions, what I have actually taken away and used from the last session…. this way I can feed this back to her and make sure my mentor knows her advice and guidance is valued, and applied!
– Honesty… I’m super lucky that my mentor has also been open to helping me navigate some pretty treacherous emotional waters these last few months as I have transitioned out of corporate life and into my own venture. No matter what I throw at her, she reflects back to me in an honest and open way, without judgement. This psychological safety is a gift.
– Reflection…our conversations reverberate round my head long after we have parted ways, and I often find myself jotting down additional reflections in the days after our meeetings as I integrate my learnings into my life. For mentoring to work, in my humble opinion, it cannot be something you just do for one hour a month…
Fun… We just click, she and I. Our conversations are interesting, we share book suggestions, we talk about business broadly, we connect each other into our broader networks. All of this gives rise to a feeling of fun and learning that I had worried would be missing from a formal mentoring programme.
Although we are only half way through the year I already know my mentor and I will remain in touch afterwards. That she will call on me for support and guidance when she feels I can help, and that long past the end of our formal Thrive with Mentoring relationship she will be influencing and impacting how I grow, learn, develop, do. You can’t put a price on this.