EVENTS & TRAINING: A participant’s perspective of The Research Society’s Mentoring Program
The second year of our Mentoring Program officially wrapped up last month, making this the ideal time to hear what our Mentoring Program has meant to some of those involved.
What attracted you to the mentoring program?
One of the great things about the setup of the mentoring program is how it appeals to such a vast array of people with different skillsets, backgrounds and goals.
For Calvin Tan it was a beginning point for his career, having just moved from his graduate role to KPMG’s Customer Intelligence arm. “I was attracted to the program because it’s a unique opportunity I hadn’t seen in my prior work experience – the privilege to build a one-on-one mentor relationship with a senior executive outside of my organisation that would help me gain exposure to perspectives more experienced and varied than my own. My end experience definitely smashed my expectations.”
Contrastingly, for mentors it was the chance to impart their wisdom by “giving younger members the benefits of my half century of knowledge, experience and (hopefully) wisdom in helping them define, strive for and hopefully achieve their goals, or, as has been the case so far, to discover they can revisit and discover new goals that better meet their real hopes and aspirations” as Les Winton shares, not only noting his mentees from the past couple of years of the program but also the ability to give back to the industry he has been active in since the 1970’s.
What’s more, the interaction between experienced, long-standing researchers engaging with newer entrants offers a reciprocal avenue for learning. For David McCallum, mentoring presents an opportunity to keep abreast of changes and to keep a relevancy in his own skills. “Interacting with my mentee helps me to challenge my existing thinking and beliefs to determine, in particular, if they are still valid and relevant or they need to be ‘revisited’.”
What have you found most valuable?
Looking back on the nine-month program, mentors and mentees reflected on the broad range of benefits. For mentee Natasha Vickers “having someone to speak openly and honestly with about my career aspirations” has helped, carving out time to focus on her needs specifically was of great benefit 10 years into her research career.
Having the tools to effectively engage the program was felt across the board. “The Mentoring Program Platform and Resources were well set-up so both the Mentee and Mentor were primed for success. It clearly outlined the roles, expectations, and outcomes required from both roles and always stressed that the right match is important.” states Calvin Tan. “Most have an incorrect perception of what a Mentorship relationship is like, using The Research Society’s resources that is quickly alleviated.”
“I have taken part in other mentor programs as both a mentor and mentee over the years, and this one is by far the most relevant and comprehensive I have experienced.” adds Les Winton.
For others, it gave access to specific skillsets they were looking to boost, in Annaleise Lee’s experience “I really valued having an outside perspective from my mentor and the ability for them to take me through more advanced quantitative techniques, which was something I was really looking to work on.”
The overarching impact on shaping personal as well as professional development rang true for many of the participants, Paul Di Marzio summarising from prior years in the program “It’s rewarding and helps me understand and empathise with some of the personal and professional challenges faced. Being able to listen and learn from these experiences helps with growth for both myself and my mentee.”
“I also valued the opportunity to learn more about what challenges are faced by young researchers today.” commented Mentor Elyssia Clark, who herself has been fortunate to have several great mentors throughout her career. “Some challenges are similar to what I experienced, but the combination of new technology and cultural norms gives rise to some different challenges as well.”
The value gained is something felt by both sides of the program, with Mentor David McCallum reflecting that “The insights gained from my mentee are most valuable – it’s nice to feel that you’ve ‘given something back’ but as someone in their mid-60’s, to have an interesting and stimulating dialogue with a different generation is very gratifying.”
This interaction was so well regarded that more of it was called for. “I did appreciate the opportunity to catch up with others along the way as a means of checking in with how everyone was going, and using it as a cross check to ensure I wasn’t missing anything.” shares Mentor Virginia Meikle. “I would like one or two more check ins with the peer group to cross-share ideas.”, something that will be more of a feature in future programs in a post-pandemic world.
How do you think this will benefit your future career?
“As researchers, we are always comparing against baselines or control groups so that we are confident in asserting significant differences. This program is no different, as it has provided me with knowledge and experiences outside of my own to compare to but most importantly, learn from.” Calvin Tan.
Confidence was a benefit highlighted by many, giving way to greater self-belief in what they can achieve and shoot for in their careers. “It has developed my confidence and allowed me to recognise my value and worth” shares Natasha Vickers.
Staying relevant was also reiterated by many, both in general learning but also to specifically apply in other walks of their lives. Experiencing another perspective from working with his mentee, David McCallum identifies “I do some internal training for research agencies and this program will help me communicate in a more relevant manner to the attendees.”
The program has also sparked interest in progressing skills to the other side of the relationship, as Annaleise Lee outlines “It has encouraged me to mentor in the future myself, as I now know firsthand how beneficial and rewarding it is.”
What’s the one thing you will take away from the experience?
For each of the participants the outcomes have varied and been highly personal.
For Mentor Richard Frost there was real value on a two-way level, as he summarises “Reflecting on my growth story and progression in the Research Industry has been personally rewarding but being able to share this knowledge was even more gratifying.” And this was similarly felt by Virginia Meikle “Acting as a Mentor gave me the impetus to really reflect on my career and draw on that experience. It’s not often you take a step back and really think about where you’ve come from and what you’ve learned along the way, so it was actually really nice to be able to do that, and use that knowledge to help someone else.”
Having been through the program has opened participants eyes on the true value of mentorship. “People of all career stages can benefit from mentoring.” as Mentor Ellen Baron reflects. “Being mentored is about finding the confidence within. Being a mentor is about strengthening reflective listening skills and sharing anecdotes about what has worked and not worked for you. The gold is in the storytelling and lessons can take out of that.”
For Annaleise Lee, with over five years’ experience in the industry, it not only provided more advanced research skills to apply in her role, now and into the future but “the program provided me with more self-confidence and has also equipped me with techniques on how to set realistic goals and how to stay motivated.”
Keen to get involved?
Now’s the time! The 2022 Mentoring Program is now accepting applications for both Mentors and Mentees. Simply submit your interest to be a part of this rewarding program and start powering your potential.