The Value of a Mentor
Ian O’Reilly, Associate Consultant
The most honest feedback I receive in life is after the final whistle is blown and I’m sitting in the pub with my mates. For me, the feedback is often brutal as they take turns to analyse my football skills, detailing my ‘lack of pace’ in trying to keep up with the pacey 17-year-old forward as he completed his hat-trick. I can’t deny the value of instantly knowing how well I did or didn’t do.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t work with our friends, and our line managers aren’t that effective in giving frequent and valuable feedback.
So, in the absence of this, how do we get some honest feedback?
How about Mentoring.
I’ve worked in fundraising for 12 years. During that period, I’ve found myself in situations that have caused stress in my life; feeling out of my depth, burning myself out, being made redundant, making people redundant, struggling with work life balance and conflicts with line managers.
During those 12 years I have confided in and sought advice from a retired army sergeant, a counsellor, a coach, personal trainer, nutritionist and a network of the most amazing fundraising peers.
These people have helped me to accurately evaluate my skills, see my weaknesses and compile a plan for improvement. They have helped me with stress management, presentation skills, fundraising disciplines, squatting with proper form and understanding the difference between simple and complex carbs.
I find great value in the advice of more experienced people. My fundraising career wouldn’t be where it is today without them. I’m more confident, enjoy my work life balance and squatting more than I ever have before (with great technique).
I currently mentor two people. One at the start of their fundraising career; we spend a lot of time talking through subjects such as career development, managing upwards and different fundraising techniques. The other is starting up an innovative drink driving campaign and is looking for funding to make it sustainable.
How could mentoring benefit you?
Whatever your role or responsibilities, you can learn from those with more experience. If you are new to fundraising, you can learn from people who have been there a while. If you are a fundraising leader, you can get advice from leaders who have been around a while. If you work in individual giving, you can learn from someone who has worked in community fundraising.
Here are some things you may want to consider when looking for your mentor:
- Understand your development needs. Analysing your current strengths and detailing opportunities where you can develop is a useful first step. If you don’t know them yourself, speak to peers or your line manager and ask for that feedback. It will help you be specific when looking for a mentor.
- Find the one. When looking for your mentor, it is not only important they have the skills or experience that will benefit you, but also that you have a rapport with them. Meet a few people for coffee and spend time talking to them to see if they are the right fit.
- Set objectives. To effectively benefit from a mentor, you need to understand how to use them. Be clear about what your goals and by when you hope to achieve them. This will ensure that time with your mentor is spent efficiently.
- Prepare. As the mentee, the onus will be on you to manage your development. This will mean you must be proactive in setting the subject and agenda in advance of your meeting with your mentor including any documents you want them to read.
To truly succeed in fundraising (or almost anything else), we need help. Here is one of my favourite quotes which I think perfectly sums up the value mentoring can bring: “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you." Bob Proctor.
If you would like to talk with Ian about mentoring support you can contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.