Like most people in the charity sector, I get a real kick out of helping others. That’s why last October, I joined the University of Aberdeen’s Mentoring Programme as an alumni mentor. I was matched with Jasmin, a twenty-four year old postgraduate student in the sociology of religion, who was keen to pursue a career in the third sector, and/ or in social research.
Six months on, and I’m delighted as to how well the match has gone. Here’s what my mentee Jasmin has gotten out of the experience:
‘As someone not originally from the UK, I can’t express how valuable this experience has been. Through this mentoring programme, I have been able to more confidently identify my professional interests and how I can best integrate into the Scottish third sector. I’ve broadened both my knowledge and network, and gained opportunities that I do not believe I would have been able to find on my own. Sometimes, a little guidance makes all the difference. I’ve been able to talk to a variety of people working across the charity sector, and identify what skills I need to develop in order to be an asset to these charities. Through this mentoring experience, I have also been given the opportunity to volunteer with a couple of local charities, including Samaritans Scotland.
Not only have I gained practical skills, but Rebecca has been amazing by reaching out to her contacts to create opportunities, and simply being a pleasant human to get to know over the course of the past six months. If all proceeds well, I look forward to working with her in the Scottish third sector in the future!’
So, as you can see, there’s plenty of reasons to get yourself a mentor if you want to widen your network and access new career opportunities. But what about the mentors themselves? Read on to find out why you should become a mentor:
Become an ambassador for the third sector, and charity professionals. Let’s be honest: how many of us fell into the third sector, rather than actively pursuing a career in it? This is a huge problem in our sector, and one that we need to start tackling: especially when it comes to fundraising. When I was at university less than ten years ago, I didn’t even know that this was a career option! By mentoring those who show an interest in our sector, we can help make things a little bit easier for the next generation of charity professionals.
Do something good for others. We all know those well cited studies that state helping others is the key to happiness. Working for a charity is not without it’s challenges; however, one thing that’s very high in our sector is job satisfaction. Simply put, doing good makes you feel good. Sometimes, the best way to show our gratitude to those who have helped us is to give something back ourselves. Cheesy, but true!
Gain valuable leadership experience. If, like me, you’ve always worked with small charities with only a handful of staff, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to demonstrate experience of line management. Often, moving up the career ladder requires some form of people management responsibilities; if you don’t have this experience or want to hone your skills in this area further, mentoring can be a great way to do this. It’s also really satisfying!
So, whether you want to be an ambassador for charity professionals and our wonderful sector; top up your CV; or simply help someone in need of guidance, I’d highly recommend mentoring. The Scottish Chamber of Commerce, Charity Comms and various regional and national factions of the Institute of Fundraising offering mentoring schemes to those within the third sector.