Poplar HARCA Head of Operations Blossom Young is next in our mentor/mentee blog series, sharing stories from FoL’s Leaders programme mentoring and its impact. Find out more about the series, the upcoming Mentor Awards and the #Alumni500 celebration here.
Last week I bumped into Courtney, a young person I’d supported in my formative career, who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years. I was touched when he described how much he benefitted from the programmes I was responsible for at that time.
It made me think about the people who have influenced my own development, and those moments where someone whose opinion you respect can trigger a change of direction, an injection of energy or a reaffirmation that you’re on the right track.
The two mentors I’ve had through Future of London certainly fall into that category, though I know through the wider network it won’t be over 10 years before I see them again! That’s the joy of FoL’s mentoring approach – in-depth support and advice from highly experienced leaders in the sector, but also them opening their little black books to you, engaging further guides to your development.
While you’re able to state some preferences about the kind of person you’d like to be your mentor, ultimately that’s in the expert matchmaking hands of the FoL team.
My Future London Leaders mentor works in a different field to me, while my Leaders Plus mentor is in a similar organisation but a different role. Working in regeneration from a ‘place and people, not buildings’ perspective, the career progression pathways aren’t obvious, so understanding my mentors’ roles and perspectives, and seeing how transferable my experience is, was a real insight into the areas where I could build my next steps.
I know many people on my cohort had clear plans and ideas about how they would approach mentoring sessions. For me, the most insightful sessions were those where I could bring whatever was on my mind. Having time and space to unpick the thornier challenges with someone independent, who encouraged me to consider situations from different angles, asking probing questions to help me identify the core challenges and solutions, was priceless.
In addition to opening up further contacts, both my mentors were kind enough to offer platforms to showcase our team’s work. For a small team working in a small part of east London, that was invaluable.
Supporting the next wave
Having great mentors also inspired me to think about how I can give back to the sector and I’ve been mentoring young emerging leaders through a housing association programme for the last few years. It’s all a bit of a chain – if we 500+ Alumni get this brilliant opportunity, then it’s incumbent on us to extend that ladder to new talent coming through.
And Courtney? He’s doing great, running his own grassroots sport charity across London. I’m excited to see the next group of young people that he’s supporting come through to play their own roles in how the capital develops.
If you’ve been inspired by this mentee blog by Blossom Young, you can find out more about FoL’s mentor network here and nominate an FoL mentor for our awards here. Watch this space for the next mentoring blog in August.
FoL’s Mentor Awards are sponsored by Lovell.