11 March 2019
The Regional Mentoring Programme, funded by the Careers and Enterprise Company and delivered in conjunction with the North East and Tees Valley LEPs, creates opportunities to inspire young people, offering activities that motivate, inspire and bring learning and career opportunities to life.
The business world is very different from school or college; therefore, it is vitally important to give young people a glimpse of future careers and help prepare them for life after school.
One of the mentors on the Regional Mentoring Programme is Dean Machnicki, Volkswagen Account Executive and Cummins Emission Solutions Inc.
What first caught your interest in mentoring?
As a kid who grew up in a poorer area of the country, I could see first-hand how aspirations and career choices are driven by the many influences that surround children. Their parents work history, extended family, peers, and teachers all having an influence (both positive and negative).
Particularly there is a lack of engineering skips across the country, where students of all backgrounds are choosing other courses and careers than ones which could help address our skills shortage.
There is also a gap of poorer children going on to study and develop careers, so it made sense to me to reach out and support initiatives where both STEM and social mobility were key aspects.
What do you feel people can gain from becoming a mentor?
The students can get an unbiased realistic view of what challenges, successes there are out beyond their school life. The can also get an appreciation that there are many types of role in all sorts of companies and industries where there is an opportunity for a career.
They can operate in a safe environment with their mentor and ask about experiences, what are the essential qualifications but also what are the important support skills to carry into a career.
Personally, to see a student engaged and enthusiastic about their own future is very rewarding, being able to facilitate their growing view of the world and it’s possibilities is a very privileged experience for me. For my own development, it’s very beneficial to have interactions with people who are different to my normal day to day contacts, adjusting my delivery and support to suit their needs.
How do you gain a mentee’s trust?
Being clear on what the mentee/mentor relationship is hoping to deliver is important – it’s not teacher/parent/peer, a clean sheet of paper where there’s no history good or bad to cloud things.
Actively listening to the mentees thoughts, concerns and encouraging them to explain their thoughts and reasons.
Trust and integrity are intrinsically linked, by delivering on what I promise, the student knows that their needs and worries are being aired and considered. Someone is listening to them. Listening to what they are saying and what they are not saying is key to understanding where their comfort zones lie around various topics.
How would you describe the mentor-mentee relationship based on your experience?
It’s a unique relationship where there isn’t a dependency between the mentor and the mentee for results, or achievements or a formal reward. It’s the facilitation of allowing the mentee to find out what is out there, understand what might be needed to achieve their ambitions and the comfort and realisation that it is all possible.
Are there any characteristics or skills that you think a good mentor needs to have?
A mentor needs to be empathetic to the concerns, lack of life experience and limited exposure to all the world holds in the eyes of the mentee. The mentor should act as the catalyst for the mentee to do research and stretch themselves outside their comfort zone to help show they can do things they may not have expected or felt they were ready for. The mentor should also be pragmatic if the mentee struggles with the new relationship, and use this to help grow the mentee.
Have you ever had a mentor yourself? How did they help you?
I’ve had a number of mentors in my career, and each one has helped me in different ways. The influence they have had is to help me see things from a wider perspective, allow me to see where my strengths can help a situation and allow me to self reflect where I can use a change in tactics and grow my skills in challenging experiences. In all experiences it hasn’t been about changing the person, it’s changing how the person sees.