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Mentoring is an effective way for less-experienced IC professionals to gain knowledge from industry experts as part of their development – but there are benefits for both parties.

IoIC is launching a mentoring programme that is free to all members – and applications are now open for the first intake. The aim is to connect like-minded professionals and support them in their professional development.

For mentees, it is an opportunity to receive guidance in an informal environment from someone who has experienced many of the challenges IC professionals are likely to face in their careers; for mentors, it is a chance to share some of their wisdom with someone less travelled in the world of internal comms.

We spoke to a mentor and mentee from the pilot programme to find out what they hope to gain from the programme and why mentoring is valuable to anyone in the internal comms profession. Justine Stevenson, head of group internal communication at London Stock Exchange Group, and Jenny Terroni, internal communications manager at University of Bedfordshire, share their thoughts.

What are you hoping to get out of the mentoring programme?
Jenny (right): I am a one-person-band for internal communications in my organisation, so I’m keen to get advice, learn about different approaches and explore ideas with someone that has a broad range of experience in IC. Particularly, I’m hoping to receive guidance on how I can develop professionally and identify the additional skills and experience that I need to achieve my career aspirations.
Justine: Throughout my career, I’ve been helped enormously by mentors who have shared their experiences and helped me to focus on my own career. Those mentors have become friends and we still meet to discuss not just work, but life in general. I hope that the programme will give me the opportunity to help my mentee, or mentees, progress in their own career, but also to give me a new perspective on the IC world.
Are there any particular areas you are hoping to develop through the mentoring programme?
Jenny: I’d like to build my confidence as a strategic adviser and increase my skills and experience in implementing change communications. I think that having a mentor will help me identify how I can build my skills in these areas and offer a sounding board and an alternate perspective.
How did the first session go? Were there any particularly enlightening outcomes?
Jenny: The first session exceeded my expectations. The conversation flowed easily and I really enjoyed learning about the different approaches taken in other organisations. Justine gave me some great tips and advice, which I feel will be a huge benefit to me and my organisation. Plus, it was comforting to learn that I am not alone with some of the IC challenges that I face. We agreed on some constructive things that we would both do before the next meeting and I came away feeling reinvigorated and motivated about my career.
Justine: We had a great first session – and Jenny was kind enough to say she enjoyed it and found it useful. I think we both realised that sometimes you get so wrapped up in your own situation that it’s difficult to lift your head above the parapet and look for new ideas or to look at things from another perspective. By sharing some of the challenges with someone else, not only do you get their perspective, you sometimes also get an alternative view yourself.
Why do you think mentoring is an effective training approach – and why particularly useful in internal communication? 
Jenny: For me, there is nothing more valuable than drawing on someone else’s experience and knowledge to gain insight and to get an alternative perspective on what you are doing, as well as acting as a critical friend – providing useful feedback and suggestions.
Justine: Most IC pros like to meet new people – and most of us like to talk and understand the point of view of others. So it’s probably an ideal experience for people in our profession. I like mentoring because it’s not about taking on someone else’s approach and learning about how they do things – it’s more about examining and finding the answers for yourself using another person’s guidance and experience.
Why do you think it’s as valuable for the mentor as the mentee?
Justine (left): Even though you may have been in IC for many years, there is still a lot more that you can learn. I have loads to learn about new approaches and skills and how to deal with different types of people. I have no doubt I will get that from this relationship. It’s also great to meet new people in the industry and I may not have met Jenny if not for this programme. But overall I hope that Jenny will find that exploring various situations and challenges will help her in her day-to-day work. That will be the most satisfying outcome for me.
Who would make a good mentor? What skills or experience do you think they need?
Justine: I think most mentees are looking for someone with a few years of experience who can share what they have learned. You don’t need to have been in the industry for as many years as me (15+), but you do need to have faced some challenges and found ways to overcome them. You need to be a good listener – but that’s true of any good IC professional, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
What do you think makes a successful mentoring relationship? What does the mentor/mentee need to do to make it work?
Jenny: As a mentee, it’s important to be open and honest and not to be afraid to ask questions so that you can get the most out of the opportunity, as well as taking the time to properly reflect on the advice that you are given.
Justine: You need to be prepared to share – to keep your conversations confidential, unless you agree otherwise, and find the time for the relationship. Other than that, I don’t think there are too many qualifications.
Applications for the first intake of mentors and mentees close on Friday 24 March. To apply, visit the mentoring section of ioic.org.uk and complete the relevant application form or contact Sarah Magee at [email protected]
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