The government has recently invested money into a new national mentoring initiative, a scheme formed to tackle employment and opportunity inequality across the country. As someone who has benefited from being a mentor and a mentee, I wholeheartedly support this initiative.
Getting into something new, be it a business or a career, can be challenging. This and other similar mentoring initiatives allow both mentors and mentees to learn from each other, and guide and support each other in a positive way. It is through mentoring opportunities that I have been able to succeed and understand the value of being a mentor and a mentee.
The positives of being mentored
When my husband and I began developing our sports nutrition company Grenade, we had no idea what the future might hold or how large the company would grow. In this environment, the life of an entrepreneur can often feel quite lonely. However, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. In business, everyone has to overcome their own set of obstacles on their path to success, and looking back, we wish we’d had someone by our side to guide us through this initial process.
Being mentored by anyone within a business can have a huge impact on how you progress within a company or an industry. I found a chamber of commerce is a great place to start for finding a mentor, but any opportunity within a business where you can build up a relationship with a senior figure should be taken up. From advice about how to upskill yourself, to having access to someone who can push you towards your objectives or who you feel comfortable enough to ask any questions, having a mentor is an invaluable resource.
This is one of the key reasons why I think any opportunity to be mentored should be accepted. The advice you’re given and knowledge you gain can lead to better prospects in your career. Ultimately, mentoring gives mentees the support they need to reach their true potential – whatever their objectives.
Lessons learned from being a mentor
The positives of being mentored are widely acknowledged, but the benefits for a mentor may be slightly less apparent. However, I’ve found it to be an incredibly enriching experience.
As my business grew and as I began to manage more people, I knew I could share my experiences and knowledge with others who were in similar situations. It was rewarding to see my advice put into practice and make a genuinely positive impact on someone’s career. That’s why I’m particularly passionate about mentoring people who want to find solutions to problems they’ve seen, whether it be within a businesses they are working in or one they’ve created.
As someone who has had good and bad mentors, I believe one of the most important characteristics of a mentor is the ability to empathise. You also need to be honest and realistic about your own limitations as a mentor – if you feel you have little in common with the person you are set to mentor, perhaps it might not be right for you to take them on.
You need to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie and understand the commitment that you are signing up to. Agree up front with your mentee about how often you can meet and how you’ll be able to help to avoid any false promises or misunderstandings before the mentoring begins.
Mentoring as a force for good
I’m pleased to see the government’s mentoring initiative has already generated some good results among disadvantaged groups, but more needs to be done to roll this support out to other communities so everyone can get the help they need regardless of their ambitions. I would also like to see mentoring initiatives extended to ensure mentees within businesses can benefit from ongoing support rather than being left to fend for themselves once a mentoring scheme expires.
Overall though, the government is taking steps in the right direction and showing it clearly understands the important benefits of mentoring. It helped to guide me through the unknown and I strongly believe it can help others further their careers too. I hope that more will realise the value mentoring initiatives can bring to a business or person and get involved whether as a mentor or a mentee.
Juliet Barratt is co-founder of sports nutrition start-up Grenade