I’ve been reflecting on the elements that have fed into my feeling successful in my career and frankly in my life.

In my vast experience (I am approaching a birthday and feeling the weight of my years) one of the things that has made the biggest difference to my personal growth and career progression have been great mentors. ‘Mentor’ is a word that is bandied about and often misunderstood. So, as we build on the success of King’s previous Diversity Mentoring Scheme and launch the ‘More than Mentoring scheme’ this month I want to share what it has meant to me and how I have found it beneficial.

I have had many mentors, but those who have had the most impact are namely: Michelle Wyer, Caroline Waters and Jonathan Slater. These are individuals who have had illustrious careers: Michelle was a female president of a male-dominated union, Caroline, amongst other things, is the deputy chair of the ECHR and Jonathan, who I met while at the Ministry of Defence, is now the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education.

Whilst the three of them were very different in life experience and personality, they had in common a high level of self-awareness, a sense of being comfortable in their own skin, a strong professional skill in their respective areas and great knowledge of their organisational contexts.

More importantly for me, as a mentee, they were empathetic listeners who put themselves in my shoes without dismissing or patronising me. They put thought and effort into seeing the connections and gaps that were in my blind spots. They challenged, supported or nudged me into thinking about situations differently. They helped me work out what was important to me, what my options were, as well as my pitfalls – including those I was creating for myself. Importantly they supported and encouraged me to move from conversation to action. At different times they each personally taught me or helped me seek input to develop new skills.

They provided a wide angle, zoom and telescopic lens, sometimes on me – why did I believe I couldn’t do it or that the world wouldn’t accept me? It wasn’t without challenge or emotion – at any given point I would feel like I couldn’t do it, or as if I they were prodding me to be someone I am not. Or like I just wanted them to help me – to make something go away, or let me hide under my duvet or whatever.

Mentoring isn’t just one way. These relationships worked because we had real rapport – mutual interest and respect.  Here I’ve focused on being the ‘mentee’ but I know from has also mentoring others I could equally have about how rewarding and developmental I found mentoring can be as well.

So, I am proud that we are launching More than Mentoring as the value and benefits of mentoring are well proven and I am a living example. The scheme will also provide the opportunity to network and develop a community through training, workshops and events.  Here at King’s those who identify as disabled, women, BME or LGBTQ+   are underrepresented at senior level and this is one form of positive action that we are taking to help address this. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, sign up here.