In late 2017 a colleague of mine introduced me to a national programme called Career Ready. This programme enables schools and colleges to help young people still in education get support and guidance from professionals in a field that is relevant to them.
Mentoring isn’t something I’d thought about beforehand. After learning more about the programme and how I could help myself and more importantly, someone else, I jumped at the chance.
The sign-up process of the Career Ready programme is fairly straight forward. Once you’ve completed a background check and gone through some administration processes, you apply to become a mentor and go to an introduction evening in January.
The Colchester Institute college is a long term participant in Career Ready. Students apply and are interviewed for a spot on the programme. Then they are matched up with mentors based on interests in certain fields, learning styles and so on. This means that mentors and mentees should get on well for the year ahead.
Starting out as a mentor
In my first year of mentoring I was quite nervous about what to do and how the year ahead would work, but it’s designed to be a frictionless as possible. Generally, you meet up with your mentee once a month for a catch up and to see how they’re getting on. Throughout the year they’re encouraged to get in touch with you and ask any questions they may have. Whether they want advice about their college work, feedback on their CV or any other concerns they may have.
Part way through the mentor programme the students are expected to take on an internship. This is something that my mentee Lee did. He wrote an article about his week at Coast Digital and everything that he learned from the experience.
What you can learn
One thing to remember is that a mentoring partnership is something that both the mentor and mentee can learn from.
You can draw from your own experiences and help the student understand how to navigate certain parts of their initial career and they in turn can give you a gateway into the student life and struggles that come with it.
This part of sharing knowledge is key because it will ultimately help both of you improve professionally and personally.
Advice for future participants
The only piece of advice I would give is that if you’re wanting to take part in a mentorship programme, go in with an open mind. I was quite nervous that a student would essentially be looking to me for answers on some important questions. Ranging from things about college work or whether or not they should go to university but you have to just be honest and guide them in the right direction.
What do you think about mentorship programmes? Would they have helped you early on in your own career? They can be hugely beneficial to some and give them a kickstart into what may seem to some quite a daunting part of life.
Coast Digital regularly do internships over the summer and try to help local students in the community get the most out of their time in education.
If you’re interested in mentoring and would like to find out more about Career Ready, you can read more about their mentoring programme here.