Sunday, 7 September 2014

Ruby Slippers

At the end of the Wizard of Oz, after many trials and tribulations involving talking scarecrows, flying monkeys and a few song & dance numbers, Dorothy learns that all she needs to do to get home is to click the heels of her ruby slippers together and say, "There's no place like home" three times. All the while Glinda, the Good Witch of the North watches over Dorothy and guides her on her journey back to Kansas.

When the scarecrow asks Glinda why she didn't tell Dorothy earlier what she needed to do, the witch answers "Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself".

Basically, the Good Witch of the North was the ultimate mentor - allowing Dorothy to make her own mistakes but ensuring that she was heading in the right direction to achieve her goal.  

I met my mentor 8 years ago when she recruited me into my banking job. Rachel and I bonded on a personal level over our mutual love of all things Jo Malone, shopping and Starbucks. A few months later she got a promotion and would no longer be my team leader, I knew that she was the woman to help me navigate the rough terrain of the corporate world so I took the opportunity to ask her to be my mentor.

Rachel - my Glinda

It was one of the best things I have ever done. During our regular meetings Rachel coached me through my own promotion interviews, counselled me through career direction crises and helped to widen my network by introducing me to her contacts.

A mentor doesn't give you the answers - they ask you questions, make you think and encourage you to lead yourself to your own conclusion.

Rachel and I have now both left our corporate banking careers and are embarking on new adventures. Rachel is training to be a teacher and we met up last week before she went to back to school.

Our primary aim was to catch up over a manicure (we went to Allertons), have a nice lunch (we went to our favourite place, Browns  the fries are dee-vine!), do a bit of shopping and finish off with a latte.

Lunch with the world's best fries on the side
But old habits die hard and the conversation soon turned to topics more likely covered in a mentor / mentee session. We're both adjusting to the change in our circumstances from well paying corporate jobs to the more satisfying but, for the time being, much less well paying pursuit of our dreams and passions (becoming a teacher and starting a business).

Coffee - a vital component of any mentor meeting!

Having a mentor isn't just for "disadvantaged youths" or Apprentice-style executives - women of all ages all across the country struggle with quandaries such as this everyday and my experience is that coming to the right decision for you is so much easier and quicker with the support of a mentor.

As I mentioned above, a mentor doesn't give you answers - as a mentee you have to put in time and effort to get results and with a bit of work a mentor in any aspect of one's life (from career to motherhood to home renovation) can be a huge bonus and put you at an advantage. You can even have more than one mentor - Rachel was my "career" mentor at the bank, but I also had a mentor for the technical specialism of my role.

Being either a mentor or a mentee can be very rewarding and there are internationally recognised guidelines for this kind of relationship (you can find versions here and here) and I can thoroughly recommend finding yourself a mentor for any part of your life where you feel as if you could do with a helping hand. And of course, if you're feeling pretty sorted and as if you could help guide someone in their career or other life choices - why not try out being a mentor yourself?

I have always really appreciated the passion with which Rachel mentored me and I can't help but feel that the young children she will be teaching in her new career will benefit greatly from being under her wing.

If you're looking for some further inspiration, I have a board full of it over on Pinterest:

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