Alex’s advice to anyone seeking a mentor is to be really honest about what you need and want

December 22, 2013 by Jenny Garrett
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My name is Alex Hunter and I am Head of Learning and Development for a UK childrens charity.

I sought a mentor because I  felt something wasn’t quite right about my work life which was impacting on my home life, however I had no idea what that ‘something’ was – all I knew was that I was troubled for the first time in my career because I couldn’t work out what was wrong and how to sort it out for myself. I thought a mentor may help.

I felt at a bit of cross roads about what I wanted from my work life as it was no longer pushing me professionally in the organisation and I was challenged whether I could do any more to influence the agenda of my profession where I am. I felt something was holding me back, however couldn’t find anyone in the organisation or with friends who I felt could challenge me about my thought processes.

I was also challenged about my lack of work/life balance and the conflict I have between enjoying my job however it not paying enough money to continue running my family and our home. At the level I am at, there are not many alternative opportunities and I really enjoy where I work – however I am the main earner and when the earnings aren’t enough to sustain the basics and you feel you are working for less than the job is worth, you really start to challenge things.

I had also reached a point where my work life balance was rocking – I have 2 young children, a role that travels across the UK and just not enough time to meet the family needs and the needs of the job – all challenges and issues that were making me consider what the future held – I needed some help to think it all through and work out what I really want from my work life.

My journey to finding a mentor was through the Aspire Foundation. I was aware of the Aspire Foundation and the fantastic work they do across the world to develop girls and woman. I was also aware of the unique approach they take to mentoring and how they have developed such a strong network – this all worked for me in terms of my values and the link to working in the children’s charity sector. I approached them and was paired with an initial mentor who didn’t appear particularly enthusiastic to link up, didn’t appear to understand what I needed and so I pulled out.

About 6 months later, I re thought it through and decided that my need had not disappeared (infact it was now even stronger). I still really believed in Aspires approach and asked for a new mentor. They paired me up with Jenny Garrett and I felt so privileged and excited as I knew a bit about Jenny’s story and had read about her book Rocking your Role.

Jenny helped me to be really honest about my thought processes (the change – I hadn’t been really honest before), she helped me to order my challenges and worries into something sensible that I could prioritise (the change – it felt too big and everything seemed a bit chaotic with no end point – it now feels manageable and I know where I am going). She gave me space to talk freely, to express my views openly, for me to ask her questions and to bounce some ideas off her (the change – I didn’t really have anyone I could be truly open with about work issues – it felt too risky to be too honest with colleagues – Jenny gave me the space to do that and she was honest back to me).

She helped me to develop my own plan and commitment to deliver the plan. I set personal goals and I committed to them.

I met my Jenny 3 times and I achieved what I wanted from that point in time.

 

I achieved a real understanding of what I really want from work, what is important to me as career goals.

I achieved a realisation of the limitations and possibilities of where I currently work and what I can do to work with that.

I set one big goal which has been delivered – I am really happy with that and now move onto the next goals I set.

I achieved a new sense of motivation from working with Jenny – I felt very inspired by her and that hasn’t gone away – she has left something with me which I treasure (it makes me smile when I think about her).

My advice to anyone seeking a mentor is to be really honest about what you need and want. If you want something that links to a wider, global initiative that has girls and women’s needs at its heart think about the Aspire Foundation – they do loads, however their mentor matching is fantastic.

Be prepared to set the time aside to do this – it is important – you only get out what you put in.

A huge thank you to Jenny – I work in learning and development and have spent my career advising others on their career paths and how to work through issues. It is really unsettling to then reach a point myself where I can’t get to grips with what is getting in the way for me – Jenny helped me to have those conversations with myself (and Jenny!) so I could see what was going on. Jenny gave me some great hints, tips and tools to get a plan in place. She’s a special lady – considering I’ve only met her three times (and that was on the phone) she has had a great impact. Thank you for getting me back on the adventure!

It was an honour to mentor Alex and I am so delighted by her progress, which has been achieved through her hard work and ability to challenge herself.

Jenny Garrett is the Executive Coach and founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy. She’s also the author of Rocking Your Role, a how-to guide to success for female breadwinners.