Mentoring is any relationship between two people whereby one is offering professional advice to the other. In the case of A Focus On Nature, we’re hoping to speed that up by taking away the tricky first step: making contact. We’ll put you in contact with a mentor of your choice, and if you follow our key steps below, then you could end up opening doors in your own career that you never imagined! Please note that you have to be 18 to take advantage of our Mentoring Scheme.
How can a Mentor benefit me?
First and foremost, networking is key to many jobs. Having a professional contact in the industry you want to work in can be very beneficial; they’ll be able to give you advice, recommend other contacts and a reference from them will stand out on a job application. They may get information regarding jobs and opportunities before it’s made publicly available, and be able to assist with making your application or CV stand out.
There’s nothing like having a professional person to test-run ideas on who will be able to feedback with honest opinions and advice; if you’ve got a job interview for example, a Mentor may be able to help you come up with good responses to tricky questions. If they’re looking for some help – whether that’s volunteering at a photoshoot, acting as a camera assistant for day, working on a project or lending a hand with surveying, you may end up being the first port of call. They may be able to advise you on the best publications to read or get in contact with, which A Levels, College courses or University Degrees will be most helpful, and which organisations will be most receptive to your skills.
Mentors will hopefully become friends, there to share advice and ideas with. By maintaining a regular correspondence you never know what doors this may open, and who you might meet along the way.
Who can be a Mentor?
Anyone in theory can be a Mentor, but it’s important to make sure that you’ve got certain skills to offer. These can be very specific – such as having experience in a certain job – but there’s more to it than that. Mentors have to have life experience, too. They have to have established a career over a few years, and thus be able to advise on the importance of hard work and commitment, a sensible and effective career path, and offer advice from their own personal experience. This usually comes with age, so we generally don’t take Mentors on that are below the age of 25, and most of the time they’re older still. If you want to join the Mentoring list, then drop us an email.
How do I pick the right Mentor?
Your first port of call is our Mentors webpage. Here you’ll find a list of all of those people who have volunteered their time and experience to advise in a whole range of areas. Have a read through all of them before making a choice, and try and choose someone in an area where they have obvious skills. There’s no point asking for someone that’s not on the list – we’ve had all sorts of weird and wonderful requests over the past year, and some of them we simply can’t accommodate! It’s important to note that not all Mentors will be available all of the time; they may have other commitments that they have to prioritise, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to contact them right away. There may also be a high demand for a certain Mentor, so there’s a competitive element, too. You’ll need to apply for a Mentor, and it’s at their discretion as to whether or not to take you on – you’ll need to make your application stand out if you want them to pick you! Finally, please don’t apply if you’re not going to take the relationship seriously; there is a certain amount of commitment involved at your end, and your professionals have all offered their time for free. If you waste the opportunity, there’s possibly another person who has lost out!
How do I make the most of my Mentor?
Don’t really know how to get the most out of your Mentoring relationship? Follow these five top tips:
1) Make yourself stand out
Nature Conservation is a competitive world, and there are hundreds of young people out there all jostling for the best opportunities. You’ve got to make yourself stand out – whether that’s on the phone, via email or in person. If you’re meeting face-to-face, then be punctual; if possible, take a copy of your business card or CV, and go with a list of questions in your head so that you’re never short of conversation. In an introductory email, don’t just talk about who you are, but what you want to be, and how you’re going about getting there.
2) Ask Questions
All of our Mentors are professionals often with hectic lifestyles; you’ll get the best response if you go into a conversation with clear cut questions that can be answered easily. Don’t be vague – if you want to know about a certain job, opportunity, course, product, additional contacts, a reference, a CV or organisation, then just ask! Too often we ramble on for a few sentences before we get to the point, and for a busy Mentor this will put them off replying until much later. Remember, they’re good, but they’re not psychic and won’t guess what you want out of your Mentoring relationship: you’ve got to tell them. Several times we’ve seen Mentees simply send over a copy of their CV and expect a miraculous relationship to form, but this isn’t the case. It’s not up to your Mentor to get information out of you, but vice versa. By being specific and succinct you’re more likely to get a helpful response.
3) Be Professional
Whether that’s writing an email or letter, on the phone or face-to-face, be polite, don’t swear and make sure your grammar and spelling are up to scratch. It’s also important to remember that tone of voice or sarcasm can be lost in an email, so read back through your emails before you send them. Do they make sense? Are they positive? At the same time, though, be friendly. Some Mentors and Mentees go on to become good friends and have lasting professional relationships, so don’t make anything too stiff or formal.
4) Be patient
Again, when working with professionals you have to remember that they may have a lot of work on and therefore won’t be able to answer until later on – this could be days or weeks later. Nature Conservation often involves a lot of time away from the computer screen, and your Mentor may not receive your email until they return. If time drags on, then think about picking up the phone or sending a polite reminder.
5) They’ve committed to you, so commit to them
A Mentoring relationship is two-way: if a Mentor helps you out, offers advice or answers a question, then say ‘thank you’. If they’ve offered to help with something, then respond – don’t just ignore emails or dismiss advice, as it’ll come across as rude or complacent.
Interested in becoming a Mentor?
We’re always looking for new mentors to join the team. Generally we ask that these people are over 30, although this isn’t always the case. To find out more, download a copy of our Mentoring Guidelines and a form so that we can find out a bit more about you.