Thursday, 5 March 2015

40 Acts - Mind the gap

 "Ask the former generations and find out what their ancestors learned." 
Job 8: 8 (NIV)

The Tottenham High Road, late afternoon, a coffee shop, and I’m meeting Peter for the first time. He’s at College of North East London, doing a Prince’s Trust course to help him back into work. Mentoring (via ‘Give Tottenham a Chance’) is part of the deal. I’m nervous, him too I think, but the meeting goes really well. He’s well turned-out, communicates well. I remember the training, which gives a helpful framework for the conversation. He takes down the action points. I buy the coffees – also part of the deal, I think.
What I’ve come to realise after several mentoring experiences over 15 years – many of which didn’t go the full distance – is that it’s actually about them, not me. And while it might have been more comfortable to mentor those who look more like me and are on a similar career path, the real prize is in difference.
So what are some of the thoughts that might hold us back from mentoring?
Don’t know where to start or what to do. There are plenty of good organisations around and you may already know mentors – just ask around. A bit of training goes a long way. All you really need is a check list of questions to frame the conversation, and away you go.
Too busy. Very valid of course; I held off signing up this year. But too busy to share your experience, contacts and invest in the next generation? Really?
Not sure I’ve got much to offer. Most of us are insecure on this score. The reality is very likely that you have valuable life experiences to share.
Younger people intimidate me. Most of us hate to admit it. My best guess is that this is an interaction between our insecurity and theirs; and they are probably more nervous than we are.
As for Peter, he followed up the action points and we met again. Then it went quiet. I hope he got work and that he found our conversations helpful. He said he did.
Andy Brookes

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