Mentorship & Me II – the story of mentorship from Alison’s perspective

This is a guest blog, supplied by my Mentee(s) when they feel inspired to note their own mentorship journey.  All views are those of the mentee about the process they are going through.  Aresko retains editorial rights but publishes the story of the experience as told through the voice of the mentee.

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Part 6

Sometimes life can get in the way of career aspirations, but with a Mentor on board I felt that I had a little extra support to get back into the swing of things.  Having applied for a couple of jobs and not heard anything for a long time I assumed that I hadn’t been shortlisted, but then out of the blue two interviews appeared.  Time to put my game face on and get ready.  Mentor session booked, job specs circulated.  I arranged for a colleague to do a mock interview and my (very supportive) boss gave me the inside skinny on the interview structure this organisation was using.

My mentor session wasn’t quite what I expected.  Expecting lots of tips on delivering a good interview, instead I was told to ‘knock ‘em dead’ and asked how I will be choosing which job to accept.  Reflecting, this was just what I needed.  I knew how to do a good interview, the reminder of this was timely, but at this point in time I needed confidence more than anything else, and this is precisely what I got from my session. We talked about my favourite of the two possible roles and how this matched my career aspirations more fully, and we explored my passion for this potential line of work.

The moral of the story (if such a thing exists) is that the external perspective can be very useful.  I thought I needed more knowledge or strategies to succeed at interview and would have spent evenings and weekends researching endlessly.  In reality, I had this already, I just needed to be reminded of that and then to sell it, and to believe in myself that I was up to the jobs on offer.

And my mentor was right.  I was offered both jobs.

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Part 5

Since my previous mentor session, it’s fair to say I have had an epiphany, a moment of clarity.  All this reflection and thinking about my future in 5 years time is starting to make sense.

So at my last blog update, I was feeling a bit dejected having not passed sifts for some jobs I applied for.  So far there is still nothing of interest to apply for.  This is likely to change, as the restructure of the NHS will generate opportunities for someone like me.  But this isn’t where my reflection has paid off.

My 5 year plan has been looking a bit sketchy on the 3-5 year part.  Other than a better paid job, I have to be honest that I don’t really have a specific goal.  There are no roles in the business I’m in that I really long to have.  My ambition feels somewhat stifled.  So what is the great epiphany?  Well I don’t think I am destined to climb this particular greasy pole to the top, I think I want to change my career entirely and indulge my passion for the outdoors.  In a nutshell, I have hatched a plan that will allow me to start up my own garden design business in the next 3-5 years, giving me the chance to escape my current desk-bound existence.  Once this tiny idea hatched, everything else has made more sense, and I have been able to start turning this from an idea into a reality.  My little red mentee notebook is now filling with ideas of how to make this a success.  The course I need to enrol on, people I need to speak to about their experience of running their own small businesses, information about the market for this skill in the area where I live.  What sort of income can this generate, what sort of companies I could be working for.

Having discussed this with my mentor, I am fired up with fresh enthusiasm and ambition.  This isn’t just a heart decision, the head is getting involved too and making some good contributions as well.  The reality of the situation is that I’m not quitting my job tomorrow and buying a new pair of wellies.  My bank manager still requires a mortgage payment every month, but I have a plan for how to keep him happy and make this change too.

So I’m still risk averse, still obsessive about planning and still wanting to have a greater influence over my work area.  Nothing about me has changed, but somehow the penny has dropped and I feel like the answer to my own happiness and career satisfaction is 100% in my own control again.  And it feels great!

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Part 4

No one said that being mentored was going to be easy, so I guess it’s no surprise that it’s not.  I have applied for three jobs and have not passed a sift for any of them.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but then again a few months ago I may never have had the guts to even apply without my mentor’s encouragement.  So I guess I’m one step forward, even if it’s yet to pay off.  Now we enter the next stage of gathering feedback and taking a hard look at what I am missing, a critical reflection which is something I tend to shy away from.  So in this regard, this is where having a mentor will pay off, encouraging me do something I dislike, but with a friendly face to guide the way and revealing the opportunities I should be grasping.  The hard reality is that I still have a lot to learn about business and life before I can achieve my ultimate goal, but that’s OK, as long as I’m pointed in the right direction.

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Part 3

Last week I had a telephone mentor session, revisiting what I’d put in my 5 year plan.  Very clear on what I want for the next 12 months, a bit sketchy on the five year part.  So I outline my plans to tackle the 12 month part of my plan, basically things to build my reputation and get recognised for getting things done. My mentor agrees that this plan is indeed a good way to proceed.  Sometimes it’s good to hear that!  Best made plans don’t always work out, and I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of legwork these past few years, still waiting on the payoff.  Knowing that I’m doing the right stuff tells me that it will work out…. eventually.
So today I get one of my usual job search email notifications.  It’s 99% guff, but surely enough, I see a job I want!  More importantly, I just don’t have what they want….. yet.  I have the ‘analysis’ skills, but not the business stuff. So I see a minor breakthrough ahead.  I might not yet see light at the end of the tunnel, but at least I know that it leads somewhere I want to be.

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Part 2

My first mentor meeting was something of an eye-opener.  Talking about your strengths and weaknesses, motivators and drivers isn’t an easy thing to do, but that’s what we did.  Fear of not achieving meant that I have never ever written myself a career plan, despite considering myself fairly ambitious.  All this must change, says my mentor.

So now I have a summary of my discussion, all in black and white and I can’t say I’m impressed with myself!  I know what my weaknesses are, and now they are written down and acknowledged I can’t very well ignore them anymore can I?  But this is just the kick up the bum I need, to reflect on my problem areas and do something about them.  First off, I will see a project from beginning to end (and not just beginning or end).

So homework is to do a 5 year plan, find out what ‘colour’ I am and to do a bit of reflection on the last session.  I guess the main take home message is that staying where I am and following the promotion chain up doesn’t really appeal to me anymore, I don’t see anyone senior in my organisation doing anything exciting.  Although I’d like my bosses job it’s mainly so I can have more autonomy than because it’s the path to the career I’d really like.  Still, I suppose it’s a start, time for more thinking.

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Part 1

Here’s a bit about me: Following a degree in Biotechnology and a short-lived attempt at being a research scientist, I fell into a job working with cancer statistics.  Starting out at the lowest rung of the ladder I happily learnt my trade as an analyst/statistician by being the person that never said no to a difficult or challenging piece of work or something that took me out of my comfort zone.  I did statistical reports, I developed databases, I contributed to journal articles, I presented findings at conferences and basically became the directors ‘pet’ analyst, picking up interesting things to do.  But after five years I realised that progression would be limited in such as small organisation, and decided it was time for a change.  I moved to the Health and Social Care Information Centre on a level transfer and worked for a year on social care publications, introducing me to the world of government statistics and all the governance that comes with them.  After a year I took a promotion to work on commissioning and contract management of health surveys, ensuring that the finished results and reports were able to answer the questions posed by our policy colleagues.  As the team grew, I took another promotion and later covered my manager’s post for a few months, giving me first proper taste of responsibility and decision-making.  I liked it so much I took up a secondment opportunity at the Prime Ministers Delivery Unit within the Treasury, and then shortly after another secondment to the National Patient Safety Agency (recruited by Aresko’s very own Sharon Davidson).  I spent a challenging year cutting my line management teeth with my own team of analysts and getting my first real taste of senior management politics.  Returning to the HSCIC was difficult, back to a lower grade and no responsibility or authority.  I worked on three teams in 13 months as a pool analyst, finally winning a promotion to manage a team of database specialists who oversee all reference data for the organisation.  That’s the journey to where I am today, but of course I hope that this is not the final destination for me.

Where do I want to be?  I don’t have a 5 year plan, but I know what I aspire to.   Why have I sought out a mentor?  They say if you copy behaviours of successful people, you yourself will be more successful. Having a mentor fits the bill, so I put feelers out.

I realised I needed someone who could help me grow as a person, not just offer advice on where the best jobs were.  Sharon is a good fit for me – like me she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, a gift with drawbacks.  I am hoping that she will be able to offer me constructive advice on behaviours I should build on, those I should dial back, and support me when I know I’m doing the right thing but the payoff isn’t immediate. It’s a big ask, and all I offer is the odd glass of wine, a blog for the website, and hopefully a friend to share photography stories.

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