Volunteer mentoring benefits all round

Aston University/Ideal Worldsmiths

Aston University is proud to be a Patron of both the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce. This blog was written by one of our mentors on the Professional Mentoring Scheme, Debbie Griffiths, Managing Director of Ideal Worldsmiths.

I can’t believe it’s been three years since we first applied for Aston University’s Professional Mentoring Scheme. How time flies when you’re having fun. And how different each mentoring relationship can be.

At first, I was more nervous than my partner about mentoring. He had way more experience than me of one-to-one coaching, whereas the former teacher in me was happiest training a group.

So why do it? Lots of reasons, really. Not least because I was a student of Modern Languages at Aston, back in the 80s. As a bright kid from a council estate and a comprehensive school, university with its year out in Germany completely changed my life. I am forever grateful for what Aston Uni gave me. Now, I try to give back as much as I can.

Altruism aside, we started volunteer mentoring for good business reasons, too. As we move our business from a copywriting to a training and coaching model, we needed some professional development ourselves.

Coaching and mentoring are similar but different. While our CIPD diploma studies have increased our academic knowledge, volunteer mentoring has given us invaluable practical experience.

Actually, another reason we applied for Aston’s scheme is because they give the mentors training and support, which has been really helpful.

The label ‘professional mentoring scheme’ is fitting in both senses. It is a scheme between business people and undergraduates and it is professionally co-ordinated. From the application to the match-making, training and celebration events, Aston’s dedicated mentoring support team make a big difference to the scheme’s success.

For instance, in my first year, my mentee and I got on like a house on fire from the word go. We had so much in common and easily talked far more than the expected one hour per month. Last year, however, my original mentee pulled out of the scheme before we met, so I was matched with a replacement whose mentor had needed to withdraw. Our time together was brief, but still enjoyable and successful for both of us.

How do I measure success? Firstly, from what my mentees say. And they have been very complimentary to date. Secondly, in terms of my personal and professional development, including practice for my vocational qualification. And finally, in terms of the bigger corporate social responsibility (CSR) picture – business supporting education and future generations.

It’s a classic win:win:win situation:

• We share our relevant industry knowledge and develop our listening and questioning skills
• Our mentees learn from our experience and put it to good use in their work placements
• Work experience helps our mentees become more employable as graduates
• Aston University ranks highly on graduate employment and attracts more undergraduates
• We share our new skills through improved client services.

Benefits all round. Give it a go!

The Learner Enhancement Team, part of Careers+Placements at Aston University, are responsible for coordinating the range of mentoring schemes available at Aston University to enable students, alumni and professionals alike to have the opportunity to support the Aston student community, develop skills, expand networks and share experiences.

Students have the opportunity to engage in mentoring activities at every stage of their learning journey. Approximately a quarter of the student population at Aston University are involved in some form of mentoring at any given time, this makes Aston one of the largest mentoring communities in any university nationally.

Click here to find out more about the mentoring schemes on offer and how you can get involved.

Pictured: Debbie (top left) with mentees and mentors from the scheme