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Debunking Mentoring Myths – and Ways to Become a Mentor

By December 8, 2015

By: Philip Kenley, Manager All Things Fun Rewarding & Meaningful, EMEA

In my role at Salesforce I must have encountered every type of volunteering activity there is – from the standard to the unusual, right up to some of the most inspiring projects I’ve ever heard of. Non-traditional types of volunteering that I’ve seen include engagements like: becoming a school governor, or a trustee for a charity, or volunteering professional skills to support a nonprofit, and in my opinion the daddy of them all – MENTORING.

From one off half-day sessions to 30 minutes a week/month, there are a tonne of opportunities for everyone – even the SUPER busy amongst us. Getting involved in mentoring can be hugely rewarding and fun, for both mentees and mentors. See example below – Mentoring at BizAcademy.

Debunking Mentoring Myths

At Salesforce, we have an (almost) unlimited supply of professionals who are at the top of their league, with the wisdom and experience (from both failures and triumphs) that would be invaluable to so many different types of mentee. We don’t have to imagine the impact that this can have, because we’ve seen it – from helping kids get their mobile apps up and running, to helping guide nonprofits with technology implementations.

Debunking Mentoring Myths

While most employees like the idea of mentoring, they often have preconceived notions that might delay them in getting started. Saying things like: “I’m not sure I can commit”, “I don’t really have so much spare time,” “I’m not sure I feel comfortable with young people,” “my skills aren’t suitable,” “I don’t have the confidence.” are not unusual at all – it’s my job to reassure them that they are a good fit for many types of mentoring engagements.

From my experience, the below for and against statements are most common when speaking to employees about mentoring.

For and Against mentoring

Debunking the Against statements is mostly done by sharing stories and talking about the opportunities available that might suit the mentor’s skill-set and personality. Having ‘would be’ mentors talk to past mentors usually works a charm when trying to encourage someone to give mentoring a go – the past mentor can sympathise with the others worries, and give them confidence that they have something really important to offer. Highlighting available opportunities makes it easier for the ‘would be’ mentor to visualise themselves in different types of engagements, and start to think which one would best suit them.

Thinking about Mentoring? Here are some examples of how you can.

Half day/one day engagements

There are a whole host of options out there for employees to dip their toes into the world of mentoring. An increasing number of organisations run half day or one day workshops with schools or community organisations, where they ask volunteers to work with students, coaching them on (for example) interview techniques, or instructing them how to write a CV or use LinkedIn, or even prepare a pitch. These events are often very interactive and hugely beneficial for the young people – they’re also lots of fun!

Online and in your own time

This type of mentoring is very flexible and perfect for the busy professional. You could mentor school kids or university undergraduates online and in your own time. How many times have you wondered how wonderful it would have been to have had a bit of the wisdom you have now, back when you were younger? We can’t change that, but this type of mentoring gives you the opportunity to impart some of that wisdom on a teenager, to whom it could really make a difference  Best of all, you get to do this online, in your own time. It could be as little as fifteen minutes per week, and at your own convenience. Could you fit that into your schedule?

Mentor a charity

We run a programme in Salesforce, for mid/senior level business professionals who are keen to share their expertise with our nonprofit community. The team here, match the wannabe volunteers with a small/medium sized nonprofit that is facing a business problem. They work together to define the problem, and over the course of their engagement, work closely together to find a solution to the problem. A typical engagement might involve an initial face-to-face meeting, followed by bi-monthly or monthly calls – on average, about 6-10 hours per project.

Another great example of this type of engagement, but a little deeper and more structured, is a programme offered by Pilot Light. This option is designed for senior executives, who are placed in teams of 4 and work with nonprofits over the course of 12 months, solving significant organizational problems. It involves one meeting per month of about 2 ½ hours and each meeting is managed by a Pilot Light programme manager who keeps the engagements on track and writes up notes for all.

Professional mentoring – 30% Club

Professional mentoring might take place internally within a company or through an external engagement. I wanted to share a little favourite of mine, which is run by the 30% Club –  launched in the UK in 2010, the 30% Club has a goal of achieving a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards by end 2015 – currently figures stand at 26.1% up from 12.5%. 30% club asks companies to identify the pivot point within their organisations, where the careers of men and women start to differ. Women approaching this point are offered mentoring from senior executives at another company. It is formal, and the relationships are not structured, but it is highly significant to the careers of the mentees.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mentoring. Trust me when I say that there are engagements out there to suit EVERYONE. If you work for a company like Salesforce, or you work in Salesforce, talk to you local country lead for volunteering programs, or if that’s not available, take to the internet and get Googling – you’ll be amazed at the mentoring opportunities that you find.

Happy Mentoring!

Learn more about the Salesforce Volunteering Program here: