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Dear Mentor...

Foreword by Susan Gordon, AXIS Network mentoring co-ordinator

A world pandemic has not stopped 17 mentoring pairs get started on their fruitful partnerships that will be developed during the AXIS Mentoring Programme. Cohort 4 was launched virtually on 20 May 2020, and we are delighted once again to have a really diverse set of participants. You may think in terms of gender – and indeed both our mentee and mentor groups are reflective of this diversity - but we are also pleased to have participants from a range of disciplines, company types, experience and organisational levels, backgrounds, ages, nationalities… You name it… What a great bunch we have.

One aspect that is pretty consistent, however, is the enthusiasm with which mentees and mentors alike are stepping into their AXIS mentoring partnerships. One of our mentors is our very own AXIS Chair, Karen Blanc, and her short blog shows a strong desire for sharing, supporting and learning with her mentee driven by her own mentoring relationships over the years.

Here’s wishing the 17 mentoring pairs much happiness and mutual learning in their AXIS Mentoring partnerships!

PICTURED: Attendees at AXIS Mentoring virtual kick-off meeting, hosted 20th May 2020

Dear mentor... I wanted to thank you.

I’ve just exchanged excited emails with my own new mentee, who I’ve been matched with via the AXIS Network cross-industry mentoring scheme. It’s the most exciting breath of fresh air after 8 weeks in social-distancing lockdown, and I can’t wait for us to get started. As I embark on this relationship, I’ve been reflecting on the impact all of my mentors have had on my life and my career and particularly you, who has guided me back to who I am a number of times through the years. Some questions and reflections that you worked with me on have really stayed with me, so I’m going to share with other new mentors to help them see the impact they can have.

Questioning - Am I tough enough?

A few years ago, I wrangled this question at length. I’d been told a few times at work that I lacked the toughness to match my ambition. I can’t tell you how much of a tailspin this sent me into. I questioned who I was, my ambition, what important quality I was missing. When I told you I'd been informed that you represented the “toughness” I lacked – you laughed, not unkindly. You told me, “I’m not tough! I don’t want anyone to think I’m tough – I don’t care about being tough – and neither should you. Be you. Do it your way. You’re already doing the tough stuff, you’re just doing it in a way that some people haven’t seen before. Keep doing that, and forget about changing who you are.” It was exactly the advice I needed to hear, and I go back to this often. Thank you for helping me find perspective and realise I am tough enough.

Questioning - How do I get excited about work again?

Those who know me will testify that I always have to be moving, learning, growing. (I’m certain this is human and that we all feel this to some extent. Right?) I was feeling a little stuck a few years ago, lacking a project which got me excited beyond the day-to-day aspects of my role. I mentioned this to you, and you immediately pulled me into a management project you were keen to launch. Perhaps this is more a sponsor than mentor role, but the things I learned from this will have really stayed with me.

It was a huge, ambitious project, and involved us collaborating with people right across the business to create change. I learned that if something needs fixed, you get started, and do what you can, bit by bit, engaging who you need as you go. I threw myself into the project, blending it with my day job, and I'd like to believe we really made a difference. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the chance.

Reflecting - Fulfilment doesn’t just come from work

When I returned from work after my first child, I was feeling a little bit unnecessary – my team was (of course!) now thriving without me, and perhaps after months of being needed 100%, I needed more to tether me to life outside of home (and I really did want to be needed outside of home… No apologies!). You reminded me that fulfilment in life doesn’t just come from work, which honestly felt like the greatest revelation! Sometimes mentors really just tell you what you already know, don’t they? But hearing it from someone else just seems to give you the nudge you need! Thank you for being a mirror and showing me what I already know.

On that note, I found a way to blend sports back into my life (resigning myself to not being able to train and compete at pre-kids levels, for now!), and I sought out and joined the AXIS Network committee, which meets so many of my needs – connecting, collaborating, making a difference, learning, networking, strategic thinking. My engagement at work has picked up again since that time, but I’m happy to report that the skills learned through AXIS have been of significant help here!

Thank you mentor. You know who you are. Please keep being you! I’m off to be me and see if I can support someone else on their path.

Karen Blanc

AXIS Network Chair


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