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Some Things Are Mentor Be….
What is it that makes being mentored so successful? Well, to quote Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” and as the inventor of bifocals I think we can trust his visual clarity on the matter. In fact he closely echoed Plutarch, who said that “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled” and for once it’s not all Greek to me. Mentoring does stoke the flames of ambition, getting you thinking in different ways and supporting you as you explore routes you’d never dreamed of travelling.
I’m responsible for running the mentoring programme on campus. Aimed at second year students, the programme has existed since 2008 and has become progressively more popular. This year 124 mentees have successfully been partnered with industry professionals from all sectors. The feedback has been wonderful. Students, who are proactive on the scheme, enthuse about it. Mentors, who give up their time voluntarily, support the programme wholeheartedly. There are a lot of Plutarch’s ‘kindled fires’ in action, making the mentoring programme literally hot stuff.
I’ve asked two of this year’s partnerships – Dr Bhaduri & his mentee Ines and John Nicholls & his mentee David – to share their experiences of the scheme with you. I’ll let their words speak for themselves.
Dr Sudip Bhaduri, GP
I am always keen to share my past experiences with the future graduates of this country in the medical or ancillary medical fields. The decision has changed my attitude towards my work, my life and my goals. It has been invigorating to read up about new subjects and to allow mentees to vent their feelings and aspirations on a one-to-one basis. There was no panic, but a sense of euphoria because at last I was handed the chance to aid and abet these future bright potential NHS employees. Sharing my knowledge practically and spiritually kick-started my life emotionally; at last a target to reach every fortnight or so for all these interesting people! Each contact with a mentee is a new discovery – feeding ideas off each other, allowing the flowers to bear fruit later.
Ines Ongenda , Mentee
I was lucky to have the opportunity to get into the mentoring programme and I am still very grateful to have had such a chance. It is not every day that you get the chance to meet somebody who is literally who you would like to be at some point. I was paired with a doctor – the field I would love to get into – but even if I had wanted to pursue marketing and I could not find a mentor in my field I would still have learned a lot and it would have been a valuable experience. To make the best of this opportunity you have to truly hone your communication skills: most of the mentors are awfully busy and if you are going to start your 2nd year you will be busy as well – on top of maybe feeling a little bit anxious because this year marks will count towards your degree. I believe other qualities such as good time keeping are crucial. How to make sure that you are still on top of your studies, possible volunteer work or part time job while maintaining a social life and building a meaningful relationship with you mentor? It is all about carving the time – as much or as little as you can – but still making sure that you make the most of it. I think a good mentee also has to be prepared; he has to have at least a rough idea of why the programme would benefit him. Not everyone knows what they want to do, what kind of field they want to get into but with the many great mentors who are part of the programme I believe it is possible to really get a sense of what you want and how to get there. The more you are able to talk and interact with your mentor – and all the members of staff responsible for this programme, who are always ready to help – the more you will be able to really tailor this opportunity to your needs.
I would encourage everybody to apply because you will learn a lot about yourself and your aspirations while developing a lot of really useful skills throughout the programme.
John Nicholls, Independent Freelance Consultant
After completing my first year as a mentor on Lancaster University’s Career Mentoring Programme, would I sign up for another year? Most definitely! The experience has been really interesting and enjoyable for me but, more importantly, being able to offer some practical help and guidance to my student David is what it’s all about. I look forward to our monthly meetings in one of the campus bars and find that a couple of hours of discussion passes very quickly. I think it’s a positive sign that there’s always more we want to talk about next time. Regular email contact also keeps our relationship up-to-date with latest news for both of us. It helps that we are both sports fans! David has tried to convince me of the merits of Liverpool FC while I have introduced him to the mysteries of American Football. It so happened that I tipped the Baltimore Ravens to win this year’s Super Bowl at rather good odds, an opportunity David now regrets missing!
The Career Mentoring Programme is very well managed and as a mentor I have felt encouraged and appreciated right from the start. A launch event in November gave me all the information I needed and considerable care was taken to match me with a student indicating the areas of interest I could help with. Arranging the first contact with my student went smoothly and from then we were left to get to know each other. I particularly like the fact that the monitoring of our relationship is not intrusive but support and advice is always there when needed. A mid-programme review for mentors and mentees was also highly encouraging. It showed just how much work and life experience is on offer to students from the impressive range of mentors the programme has recruited. I only wish there had been a similar programme available to me when I was at university!
David Williamson, Mentee
For most students, careers advice or planning a career is something the university talks about, or leaflets at career’s fair talk to you about, but you don’t actually do any of it. With socialising, coursework, lectures, tutorials and generally enjoying your three years of freedom, planning that big bad, scary thing called a career isn’t really something you consider “important”. However with CEEC’s mentoring programme this can all change for you without even having to make a large commitment. The programme, which runs from November to May, is an ideal way for any student to gain an insight into a career, or just get a chance to chat to a professional person from somewhere in the “real world”.
Before I got roped into going to an induction talk last year, by a couple of flat mates, I’d never even considered the effect mentoring could have on my career path. Now the best part of a year later, I’m well and truly hooked on the massively positive influence it’s already had on my outlook on the future. After just a handful of meetings with my assigned mentor, John, I’ve experienced what a graduate interview can be like, had my CV revamped from the bottom upwards and also gained literally hundreds of insights into the real world. All without even leaving campus, by joining the scheme, I gained the opportunity, first hand to learn about industry management, from someone who has been there and done it. This chance has completely changed my outlook on careers, refining what I want to do with my future and providing a chance to learn some genuinely interesting and above all real world knowledge. For me this opportunity can’t be valued enough.
The experience of carrying out a mock graduate interview and also having my CV critically analysed by someone who used to hire and fire industry managers for a living cannot be overvalued, my experiences on the mentor programme have improved my employability and given me new tools to work towards employability with.
If you’re a second year student and don’t want to let this amazing opportunity pass you by, please apply online at http://www.lancs.ac.uk/sbs/ceec/students/mentoring/index.html between 5th – 24th June. Places are limited to 140 –so make sure you’re one of them!