Kate Mulvany

I, Kate, a mentoring sceptic, got a great new job because of my WUN mentor.

They say there’s no one as devout as a convert. So in this post I want to tell you about why I was wary, what I have gotten out of the relationship so far, and what I was wrong about.

  • Because I am a walking cliché of a British woman, I didn’t want to be a ‘bother’. I was afraid I would be wasting my time, and someone else’s.
  • Being the Goldilocks of mentees. What if my mentor’s experiences were too different to mine to be relevant? Or worse, what if they had exactly the same career path to me and couldn’t offer a fresh perspective?
  • Charles Dickens warned me about benevolent seeming benefactors. This one might be specific to me and my reading habits, but the stories we tell about professional supporters often rely on hubris or betrayal for dramatic purposes. Looking at fictional representations of mentoring your best bet would be a hilarious misunderstanding with mid-level embarrassment.
  • People saying “You’ve got a mentor?” when they really mean “I think you are being insufferably pretentious”. A minority response, to be sure, but a real one from certain quarters.
  • I loved the job I had. Sure, it was becoming harder and harder to see what my job looked like down the line, but right then it was great!

Spoiler alert: so it turned out my WUN mentor, Jo, is amazing. She has a vast and relevant experience in the same industry as me.

But even if Jo had less experience in Energy, or her experience was divergent, I believe her mentoring would still have been as the springboard I needed. She acted as a mirror and a guide to my career goals because she asks great questions and suggests useful exercises.

I realised I wasn’t giving the same value to my personal aspirations, in the way I would for technical professional development. I don’t refuse to attend a course because it is ‘only’ 90% relevant to my goals. I would review a process I was responsible for, even if I couldn’t guarantee delivering total efficiency at the end of it. So why I’d need a perfect mentoring relationship for it to be worth both our time, I couldn’t tell actually you.

And all I can do is provide assurances that so far Jo is neither a Magwitch nor a Miss Havisham, and that I am really looking forward to the next stage of my career.

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