Mentoring can reinvent, rejuvenate or reignite your career, writes Rhian Morgan
As a professional woman, you probably boast the qualities of curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, and an ambition that is not just confined to your current area of expertise.
However, as we’ve seen in previous blogs, there are far too many obstacles to women achieving their dreams. Motherhood is fulfilling for a lot of women but it can create a gaping impasse in your career trajectory. Also, far more people are choosing to stay in their jobs due to the fear incited by the recession, meaning fewer opportunities for advancement. There is also the glass ceiling to contend with, being made redundant, or simply the feeling that you could benefit from some guidance.
Alternatively, there are plenty of people who feel they should be grateful for having supposedly “achieved it all” yet feel something is missing. Others feel the need to give something back, despite feeling happy and fulfilled.
Either way, the perfect solution is to join a mentoring programme.
There are many schemes for professional women out there. For example, Women 1st supports women who aspire to senior leadership roles to fulfil their career ambitions in hospitality, travel and tourism. Also, the Aspire Foundation has corporate managers mentoring women in the non-profit charitable sector.
And there’s the Women in Film & Television UK (WFTV) mentoring scheme, set up in 2010 to try to prevent the exodus of women in their 30s from the film and TV industry.
WFTV is the leading membership organisation for women working in creative media in the UK, and part of an international network of more than 10,000 women worldwide. It was set up in 1989 by a mix of business executives and creatives, such as Dawn French, Lynda La Plante, and Janet Street-Porter.
The scheme is aimed at mid-career women, with at least five years’ experience (although they typically have 10 to 15 years’) who are facing some kind of career obstacle.
As Mentoring Scheme Producer Nicola Lees said: “Essentially, they fall into wanting to do one of three things: reinvent, rejuvenate or reignite.”
Mentees come from a diverse field of editorial, craft, or business roles, including a financier, a media lawyer, and a composer, as well as directors, producers, writers, editors and distributors.
They are matched with a mentor who gives six hours of mentoring over six months with an experienced industry figure. Alongside that, the group of 20 women selected for each scheme meet at least every fortnight for a series of master classes and networking events.
Mentoring is free, and the organisation even throws in a year’s free WFTV membership (worth £100). WTFV is currently on its fourth scheme and has had 80 women in total on the programme. It is supported by EON Productions, Creative Skillset, the BBC, and Channel 4.
The application is in-depth, and competition is understandably fierce.
But both mentors and mentees enjoy numerous benefits, as evidenced by the website’s testimonials.
“The mentor scheme is an excellent means of enabling experienced executives to help develop women with great potential,” said Anne Sheehan, Director of Film Finance, Prescience.
“It is key that the scheme organisers are good ‘match-makers’. In my case they were and it was a very rewarding experience.”
The mentors are experts in their fields but the mentees also boast incredibly impressive CVs. Take Lisa Francesca Nand, for example, who was already an accomplished broadcast journalist, producer, director, presenter, writer, and voiceover artist.
Lisa has had contracts with the BBC, Sky, and regularly shoots online films for the national press and websites including Sky.com. She was also the first female presenter on national radio’s talkSPORT.
She has many years’ experience producing, directing and presenting high-end corporate films, and is a regular expert guest on national TV and radio (mainly in travel, health and current affairs). She is also currently making her first documentary, First Heartbeat, an authored film about recurrent miscarriage.
Yet, despite her obvious talents, Lisa still felt she needed a helping hand.
She said: “I feel women in particular often have an underlying suspicion that they're winging it in work - despite having many years of experience and success behind them.
“The WFTV mentoring scheme really helps mentees recognise successes and focus on strengths. It has been amazing and really opened doors.
“Through the scheme, I've met so many successful, strong and inspiring women - both fellow mentees and via my mentor, a major production company executive.
“Being on the scheme has been good for both practical advice through my mentor, which is helping me complete my first feature-length documentary, and also helped me feel I now have a support network, which as a self-employed broadcaster used to working on my own has been invaluable.
“It's hard, when you're midway through a good career, to admit that you might need help but I feel that everyone could benefit from having a mentor, whether self-employed or in a small or large organisation.
“Sometimes it's easier to see the wood through the trees, as it were, with someone giving you an outside perspective.
“It has certainly given me renewed inspiration and vigour in my work and I really hope that the contacts I've made through the WFTV mentoring scheme outlast the six months of the scheme itself.”
For more information on the WFTV, visit www.wftv.org.uk