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A beginner’s guide to mentoring

By Jess Goodhand

Reaching out to those starting out

Someone recently pointed out how different I look on my work pass compared to how I look now, and it got me thinking. A lot has changed in the two and a half years I’ve been at Prox. My hair’s grown about 10 inches and I’m definitely not as fresh faced as the 21-year-old beaming at the camera on her first day of ‘proper’ work. The biggest difference, however, is the progress I’ve made and how much better equipped I feel to take on each and every day at work.


A concerning 50% of 17–23 year olds feel that education has left them unprepared for the world of work. As a recent graduate with five or six different interning stints under my belt, I probably would’ve told you I didn’t fall under this bracket. But as life often does, it proved me wrong and adulting hit me in the face like a blast of hot air on the Central line in a heatwave.


I’m not going to completely discredit myself – I’ve always had a ‘bring it on’ attitude with a healthy dose of common sense. But the biggest factor that’s enabled me to really advance in my job has been the strong support of my team since day one. There have been a few key individuals that were there when I needed someone to look up to, answer my ‘stupid’ questions (errr what does BAU actually stand for??) and work with me on solutions when I didn’t feel completely satisfied in my role. And it’s these mentors who have helped me feel more accomplished than I ever felt at school or university.


On an episode of Culture Call (great podcast btw), it was said that “the meaning of work and the role that work plays in people’s lives is going through a revolution.” People my age now derive much of their identity, self-worth, and personal development from work, compared with previous generations who derived much of these things through community and religion. So, if we don’t feel ready to take on the world of work, but work has such a big impact on our lives, shouldn’t employers be doing more to ensure we’re set up for success?


43% of millennials (or Gen Yers or whatever buzzword you want to give us) plan to leave their current jobs within two years and only 28% have plans to stay beyond five. Many employers are failing to keep pace with the shifting career expectations of younger generations and as a result they go looking for greener pastures. For me, one of the main reasons I’ve stayed put at Proximity is because I’ve had those key individuals pushing me in the right direction so I can keep learning, developing and succeeding. So could a greater emphasis on mentoring be the solution for the other 43%?


The definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted advisor.” With such a wealth of knowledge available to tap into, why aren’t we leaning on each other more for support? For me, age is irrelevant, and the interpretation of a mentor shouldn’t rely on the number of years you’ve put on your LinkedIn profile, but on the varied experiences and passion that got you here in the first place. 


So, if you’re looking for a mentor, reach out. And if you’re not a mentor, why not become one?