University Mentoring Scheme: Guiding the future generation

I am passionate about being a Mentor, but why you may ask.

As a past student and alumni of my local University in Plymouth, I have been involved in the Mentoring scheme for over 10 years.  It is something I am very passionate about and enjoy giving back to not only the University but also to the next generation.  I feel strongly that as I received support, as a first generation to attend University, by not only the University but also those around me to be able to pursue my goals, that by actively supporting the Mentoring Scheme, that in some small way, I am able to help someone else achieve their goals.

I have personally found the role has generated benefits for myself but I hope it has been a great benefit to the various Mentees with whom I have been paired with over the years of my involvement with the scheme. 

The aim of the Scheme is to provide some guidance and support by Mentors in various industries/professions to help Mentees in their growth, development and exposure to real world practicalities of their chosen paths.  If I can sign post any tips or hints as a result of my experiences, successes and failures, then this can only be a good thing.

As a busy professional and mum, it is all too easy to overlook my own experiences, challenges and successes I have faced throughout my career.  The mentoring scheme is a great opportunity to self-reflect on my own experiences and challenges in my career. 

As part of the initial getting to know you session, held by the University, I find that it is a great opportunity to help guide my Mentees to start to view their experiences in a positive way, to help aid my Mentees to think about their own self-reflection and to help elucidate those transferable skills.

On the whole, Mentees fully engage with the Scheme and over the ten years I have only had one pairing that was not successful due to lack of engagement.  If problems do arise, then the University Careers Team are always on hand to provide any assistance.  However, Mentees are usually very keen to learn and engage. 

Mentees may worry that they do not have the experience to apply for roles in law firms.  I see it as an important element of being a Mentor to encourage Mentees to embrace their skills, and to be proud of the life experiences they already have, to build their self-confidence.

As a Mentor it is important to make a connection with my Mentee, as they begin to think about their next steps starting out in the legal profession.  I hope that the skills I have honed over my involvement with the Mentoring Scheme means that this connection can be easily established by patience, actively listening and encouraging my Mentee.  This all helps to build and maintain that trust.

I hope that by my sharing my journey of career high and lows, it can help my mentees recognise that their next steps may not be as direct into the legal world as they may hope but any experience will still be worthwhile.

By sharing my experiences and passion as a lawyer, I hope that I can help guide the next generation of lawyers as they prepare to navigate the training contract applications that will form part of their next steps after University and help develop those networking skills which will be invaluable throughout their legal careers.

For me, being a Mentor is not just about completing the 6 month programme and providing guidance during the scheme but I hope to foster a long lasting relationship with my Mentees.    I am always delighted to see their individual career developments and achievements and hope that we create a career long connection.

A benefit of being a Mentor is being able to engage with the next generation of young lawyers and taking on board their ideas and innovation which helps keep me as Mentor exposed to the upcoming talent and ideas for the wider benefit of my firm. From the Mentees perspective, it is a great scheme which offers an insight to legal profession.

By investing time in the mentoring scheme, I am continually embracing self awareness but also helping to nurture the future generation whilst honing my leadership skills, communicating ideas and providing constructive feedback adaptable to the unique needs of each mentee I am paired with during the scheme. 

For Mentees they are offered a doorway into my professional network opening up potential opportunities for them to collaborate and hopefully expand their networking opportunities for their career path.

I would strongly advocate and encourage anyone to become a Mentor for their local University if these schemes are offered.  University’s offering Mentoring Schemes are always looking for new Mentors in a wide ranging array of professions and Industries.  My local University scheme asks that I commit to just 4 hours over a 6 month period.  It is very little commitment as a Mentor but will be invaluable and time well spent from the Mentees perspective.   

The University provides Mentor coaching so that Mentors know what is expected in terms of the frequency of the sessions, how the sessions are conducted and reflected upon and how to safeguard the Mentor and the Mentee during the programme. 

The University takes time to assess those who apply for the Mentoring scheme so that those applying understand the commitment being provided by the Mentors and what is expected of them through the programme.  This process ensures the commitment from both sides.

I would actively encourage anyone to approach their local University or College in their area or if your employers run an internal mentoring program, to get involved.  I have found it a profoundly rewarding experience not only for my own development but also for giving back time to the University community.  The mentorship programme enriches my growth and provides the opportunity to help the future generation of young lawyers.

Donna Butler

Partner & Solicitor in Residential Conveyancing, Beers LLP