Mentoring is a fashionable activity. If one were being cynical there is the quote from the poet, W H Auden ‘we are put on this earth to help others, what the others are for, I do not know.’ The Oxford dictionary, on the other hand defines a mentor as ‘an experienced and trusted advisor of the young’. This is based on the words of Telemachus in Homer’s Odessy.
On balance I prefer Homer. But should mentoring be restricted to helping the young? Is it personal and limited or is there a wider role? For example from career advice at school or college and university to business advisor for a budding business individual, there is always a need for someone to trust to help with your decision-making.
Then,there is the whole range of support with relationships. I trained and worked as a marriage and relationships counsellor in Edinburgh. I did this for a number of years then for ten years I served on the Board, representing Edinburgh District Council. During training each of us had a mentor. Mine was the late Dr Parry who was a senior consultant at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. He was a very wise man and I learned so much from him about human relationships. Also he taught me the importance of active listening. We had a very well-structured mentoring system. Even after we had enough experience to ‘fly solo’ the assistance continued with case meetings and personal help where needed.
Now I come to commerce and business and, indeed, the advent of Investors in People made the notion of support for employees at every level, a recognised tool in good employee relations, leading to greater success. It seems a long time ago but I was one of the first people to be trained as an Investors in People practitioner.
The training was carried out by Scottish Enterprise and through the Business Gateway network as well as, today, the relevant Scottish Government Department which is engaged actively in introducing mentors to mentees.
Earlier this year I became a mentor for a Saltire scholar who had been in Boston in America for six months and returned brimful of ideas to start his own business.
So Craig and I, at his request, looked a various ideas which he had and we settled on using ‘crowd funding’ to put would-be entrepreneurs in touch with each other using the internet. This was successfully launched at the Scottish Parliament, an event hosted by Angela Constance, MSP who is the Minister for Youth Employment. The evening was a great success and gave an opportunity for a number of fledgling businesses to interact and showcase their ideas to experienced business people.
I strongly believe mentoring has proved itself to be successful and I am sure will continue to be so.
Christine Richard is a regular contributor to the3rdmagazine.