ICAEW members Tom Shiels and Gbemi Kasanga had previously experienced the benefits of mentoring as mentees. Now, taking part in ICAEW’s Student Mentoring programme as mentors has renewed their confidence in mentoring as a skills- and network-building exercise. They encourage more members to get involved and share their knowledge.
“Mentoring was a massive help for me to really navigate my career and elevate myself,” says Gbemi. “The programme is an opportunity to help young people who are studying to really understand what it’s like to be in the professional space and how to develop and grow. It can also give reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel – especially when you are doing exams, which can seem very daunting.”
“I found mentoring really useful, so when I was approached to join the programme, I thought that would be a really good opportunity for me to give something back,” Tom adds.
Flexibility firstMentors don’t need any prior mentoring or coaching experience to get involved and the programme has been designed so mentors are able to share their own learnings and expertise.
Typically, each mentoring relationship runs over a three-to-six-month period with two-to-four hours of support offered each month. “Out of my month, it’s probably no more than an hour's worth of work, which is a really small commitment,” says Tom.
“The sessions are a great way to build rapport with an individual,” adds Gbemi. “It’s a safe space for them to ask questions, no matter how big, small or personal, that maybe they can’t ask their manager. And it’s also a space to develop and build connections.”
When Gbemi and Tom catch up with their mentees, they typically discuss action points from their previous sessions and then follow with questions and advice. The sessions don’t always have a strict agenda, but Tom says he encourages his mentee to think ahead. Previous topics have included, for example, how to approach salary negotiations with employers.
Reciprocal benefitsGbemi and Tom have found it particularly rewarding to watch their mentees grow as individuals with each session – something that has been facilitated by open, honest conversations.
“When you’re having a conversation with your boss, it may not always be as open as is possibly could be,” Tom says. “The fact that I have got no previous connection with my mentee means that they are quite open about things and happy to have conversations about what is having an impact on them in the workplace.”
It means mentors are learning alongside their mentees, too. “The diversity aspect is key,” Tom says. “You can quite often get a little bit blinkered in your team, your business or your career, but mentoring has opened my eyes up to some of the things that are affecting other people. That has been quite rewarding.”
Gbemi has found that the programme has also boosted her own communication skills. “I think those are skills that you can never really exhaust, whether communicating with peers, senior leaders, or those who are more junior,” she says. “So being able to speak to a younger person professionally and understand what they are going through, and being able to articulate yourself clearly, has been great.”
The reciprocal benefit of mentoring is just one of the reasons why Gbemi and Tom encourage other ICAEW members to get involved. Members may even be surprised by the breadth of skills and knowledge that they’re able to offer younger members of the profession, says Gbemi.
“There are so many skills that we acquire in our professional and personal lives that would benefit so many people. It’s really important that individuals who are qualified and have a certain level of experience get involved,” she explains. “You’ll be surprised at the knowledge you can bring to the table.”
“Having more people put their name out there to mentor would be great,” adds Tom. “What have you got to lose? It’s an hour during the month in which you could get across that little nugget of information that sparks something in someone else.”
ICAEW's Student Mentoring Programme
Learn more and register your interest in ICAEW's Student Mentoring Programme.