You don't have to be Sir Richard Branson or Lord Sugar to be an effective business mentor!

Alice, a volunteer mentor on our Leaders Together project, describes how the experience has benefitted her too. 

Back in 2012, I approached one of the directors at work to be my mentor. I am pleased to say that this is still continuing and that he has been a constant source of help, support and ideas. He has also inspired me to become a mentor too, as I really wanted to find a volunteering opportunity that allowed me to ‘give something back’ and help someone.

So I was delighted to find out about TimeBank’s Leaders Together project, which matches volunteer mentors with small charities and social enterprises in London, to help them work more efficiently.

Leaders Together matched me with Aminul, who works with Al Isharah, a small charity which supports deaf Muslims.  Working with him has been a fantastic experience and something I am so pleased I embarked on. Whilst I hope that I have shared some of my personal experiences and learning’s with him for his benefit, I personally have learnt a great deal from Aminul too as he has also reciprocated and shared his experiences with me too.

At first I felt I was under-qualified to become a mentor. For some reason, I had it in my head that I needed to be a mini version of Richard Branson or Alan Sugar to meet the criteria of being a mentor. However this experience has taught me otherwise. Mentoring is about sharing your experiences and ideas with your mentee to help give them a fresh or different perspective of something. It’s certainly not about giving them the right answer or telling them what to do. The fact that I was able and willing to give advice from my personal related experiences provides me with part of the qualification to be a mentor!

Learning from Aminul has meant that I have too benefited from the mentoring relationship. It has also helped me boost my confidence, communication skills and the ability to ‘put myself out there’ and meet new people, which if we are honest with ourselves, is a little scary! Meeting someone new, striking up a relationship instantaneously and sharing your views in a confident and comprehensive manner is a skill that I have enhanced now through our successful mentoring relationship.

For me the TimeBank project of matching mentees and mentors has been excellent. Aminul was looking for a mentor to support him in his volunteering capacity at a local charity, event management and assistance in managing volunteers. With my previous experience of volunteering in an events management setting and managing over 100 volunteers in my paid position, I feel that TimeBank has matched us well.

What now?

The six month project worked so well for us, we have decided to continue for another six months to the end of the year, with one meet up a month. I am more than happy to do this as it isn’t really a lot of my time, I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to help and support another like minded individual, plus let’s not forget that I probably have a lot more to learn from Aminul too!

 Alice Dartnell, Development manager and project manager for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, writes at lifehack.org and  yoursuccesstoolkit.blogspot.co.uk