Mentoring without boundaries
Guest blog written by Julien Blanc, recent participant in the AXIS mentoring scheme
Like many of you, I have been involved in mentoring schemes since graduation. In the past, mentoring has helped me to reach specific goals, to challenge myself or simply to open up my horizons and point of view. I feel that company-specific mentoring schemes often seem too rigid, and too often tied to business requirements. Typically, in this scenario, you are paired with your lookalike: the person who the business thinks YOU will be ten years from now. This can be limiting for several reasons; it puts the company’s needs before your own and makes many assumptions of who you are and where you wish to get to. I feel that the danger of this approach is that it can limit your vision for your future self too.
As a member of the AXIS Network, last year I took advantage of the AXIS Mentoring scheme and applied to take part in Cohort 3 as a mentee. It was free, nothing is expected in return, and all that’s required of you is to define why you want to be involved and what you wish to get from it. Nothing to lose really!
In fact to the contrary, there’s everything to gain. For the first time, I could expect the unexpected. With minimal input from myself I was somehow paired with the perfect mentor; she liked coffee too. On paper, I felt we had little in common. It was refreshing to find myself paired with an experienced mentor from a different part of the industry, who had volunteered her time for me.
All of the AXIS mentors and mentees were invited to a kick off session where the AXIS Mentoring Leads provided an informal refresher about mentoring. It was great to see that everybody in the room was there for different reasons.
From there, my mentor, Susan, and I organised our first meeting in a coffee shop and our mentoring relationship took off. I was full of good intentions, armed with pen and notebook, head packed with goals and timelines. Well… things did not go to plan. Very quickly I realised that I had an opportunity to think outside the box. The mentoring programme was bespoke, and we realised we should make the most of it. We decided that we would let the mentoring relationship go wherever our conversations took us to. Now, I can’t recall agreeing any specific goals but, somehow, I achieved everything I wanted!
At the half-way point, AXIS caught up with us to see how things were progressing, and once again helped people to network further by creating a safe environment to share experiences between mentees and mentors.
It was obvious from the chat in the room that everybody had shaped their approaches to mentoring to their needs. AXIS encourages everybody to find their own unique mentoring path, and has created a mentoring programme which is flexible and safe, and draws on the diversities from across our sector.
After six months, AXIS invited all participants to a final meeting where there was an opportunity for everyone to reflect on their journey and discuss any improvements for the next cohort [starting April 2020 - ed].
Like many others in the room, my mentor and I have decided to continue our journey as mentor and mentee, and I’m already thinking excitedly about what’s coming next. AXIS has provided me with a platform to meet a great mentor which I may never have met in other circumstances. Success does not happen alone! Bring on the next challenges!