Sunday, 16 February 2014

Business Continuity: Career Mentoring Myths & Realisation

For those of you who often frequent my BlogSpot, you will have undoubtedly spotted my desires to find a good solid mentor who has the time and inclination to support me through this career defining no-man’s-land (by which I mean I’m no longer considered as newly qualified “raw talent” but also not considered as “mid-career” just yet). It’s kind of like back when you were a child but growing in to a teenager and those clothes just didn’t fit right!


A few months ago I posted my initial thoughts on the inherent dilemmas of finding the right mentor in this industry including the recently advertised BCI Mentoring Programme. I described the challenges of finding the right individual from the right industry sector who could give me what I needed in terms of guidance.

I have to say that my experience thus far of the whole mentoring process hasn’t worked out like I expected but that’s by no means a bad thing! In fact, my entire view on this has virtually changed for several reasons as I’m about to explain...

Mutually Beneficial Mentoring

If we go back to the good old dictionary, the term mentoring is defined as:
“An experienced person in a company or educational institution who trains and counsels new employees or students.”

So let me get this right. A mentor is someone who takes a new person from the industry and guides them through the process until they can correctly do it themselves? As we all know people are different and that could take a very long time depending on the individual!

It does sounds like an awful lot of hard work and dedication for a senior colleague doesn’t it? I mean on top of their busy workload and personal demands, to provide such dedicated allowance of their time and thoughts and also out of their sheer good will? Surely they need to be getting something out of this?

Well... the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) are much more specific about how they see mentoring and view the process as much more mutually beneficial:
“Mentoring is a developmental partnership which enables the exchange of best practice and the open consideration of career opportunities. A successful partnership can overcome the common concern that Business Continuity practitioners tend to sit on their own within different organizations, making it difficult to exchange ideas with others in the field”
I really like this definition because it highlights the reality that mentoring is a two-way street. Most new starters arrive with an air of effervescence and a unique knowledge-base; new thinking that is based on best practice using new technology. The senior colleagues that I have spoken to say that by being a mentor they are keeping themselves “fresh”, which makes total sense to me.

The BCI Mentoring Programme

The BCI were very effective in their role within the mentoring programme. They promised me an open-door opportunity to network with a senior professional and duly delivered. I was introduced to a highly experienced Global BC Professional from my industry sector that is friendly and supportive but also comes with a wealth of knowledge and an endless list of contacts! The institute also offered me an introductory admin structure of objective settings to get things started. I have to say that overall I am very pleased with the experience. However I do feel that the BCI YouTube Videos that interview mentors and mentees put me off slightly. I distinctly got the impression that this programme targeted very young, newly qualified junior professionals when in actual fact there are those making career side-steps in to the industry or even those embarking on BC from 10-20 years of doing something completely different. Just a suggestion BCI.

Real World Mentoring

I think perhaps in going through the experience of the mentoring programme thus far, I have I arrived at my first round of realisiation. Mentoring (for our industry at least) does not work in the way I expected. For instance:

Cinderella Mentoring is a Myth


By which I mean no one size fits all. There are far too many variables when considering different individuals with different needs, career aspirations, rates of development, availability of time etc. So I guarantee your experience will be different to mine. I guess I initially expected a very structured formal kind of interview situation held on a regular basis. However I now know that mentoring can be much more relaxed and received as-required. For this I have to key points to put across:

1. You may not need to be mentored all the time but only when you reach those difficult challenges. For example when working on an element of BC that you have no experience in or perhaps a career crossroads and you need to know what options are available. As we all know these experiences are sporadic so we deal with them as they arise and they simply won’t fit in to the second Tuesday of every month!

2. There’s nothing wrong with having more than one mentor. Something I have found since the plethora of individuals now offering support is that different mentors offer different skills and experience. It’s like a career buffet cart – just cherry pick the parts you like from what’s on offer.

Commitments


As professionals we are all busy people with huge time demands placed on our shoulders to produce the next exercise or write up the next plan etc. EVEN if a mentor had a spare afternoon (unlikely) there is no guarantee that your diary will align.

Professional Benchmarking


Back when I initially started to ask myself these questions about finding the right mentor and then endlessly searching the internet for similar thoughts or discussions to no avail, I guess I considered myself to be extremely junior in the industry. It’s since the creation of BlueyedBC and the subsequent windfall of increased contacts that I have began to benchmark my experience against my other colleagues in the industry. It is without realising that since this time, two things have happened:

1. My faith in my approach to working and the BC related tools and frameworks I have built has increased dramatically as I begin to realise that my several years in the industry have served me well and I’m actually a lot more experienced than I gave myself credit for.

2. In meeting with other more experienced professionals and discussing business continuity I have removed the veil of distinguished experts, acknowledging that they had to work up the ladder as well! As junior professionals we can all be just as good in the future.

Final Thoughts

I would urge my peers to engage with the BCI to take part in their mentoring programme and get networking. I have recently received a wave of experienced professionals offering support and guidance, it’s been quite humbling. The support is there – you just have to ask and the BCI offer an open door. Although please stay flexible and dynamic. Do not expect a deeply structured format because our industry doesn’t afford that to anyone and 100% believe that you have something new to bring to the table!

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