In November 2020, Alice Burrows shared her experience of using CIWM’s mentoring platform to begin her journey as a mentee. Now, two years on, she updates us on how being a mentee has contributed to her career in that time.
Coming into the mentoring relationship, I had three broad aims:
- Learn more about the waste and resources sector.
- Get some guidance on skills needed to progress.
- Be supported in becoming chartered.
As you can see, I needed a bit of help getting those goals a bit “SMARTer” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based).
How my mentor helped me
Through regular lunchtime Teams calls with my mentor, I was able to pinpoint some more specific objectives to help towards those broad goals. My mentor never told me what she thought I should do; she simply shared her experience and recommended resources or people to connect with.
She let me know about opportunities coming up that I may not have known about and encouraged me to put myself forward for things that I thought I wasn’t “qualified” for as a young person in the sector. Because of her encouragement, I nominated myself for Let’s Recycle’s ‘35 under 35’ in 2021 and was shortlisted.
As I was 27 at the time, I was very surprised to make the list next to people who had been in the industry for up to 8 years longer than I had. It showed me that experience isn’t always about how many years you’ve put in and it gave me more confidence in myself, which helped when it came to the networking part of the awards event!
My mentor encouraged me to apply for chartership one round earlier than I had planned to and I was successful, which helped me to have faith in my own skills and knowledge. Becoming chartered was something I had wanted to do ever since I learnt about CIWM while I was an intern for an environmental consultancy during my second year of university.
Challenging myself to apply as soon as I was eligible, and a few months earlier than I had intended to, was both exciting and scary. I did it despite the nerves and it’s one of my proudest achievements in my career so far. I encourage those of you who are eligible not to wait too long before you go for it.
The self-confidence that I have gained through my mentoring has helped me put myself forward for various tasks and events that I otherwise would have considered out of my reach. I’ve spoken on a panel at Let’s Recycle Live, written blog posts (such as this) for CIWM and others and was featured on CIWM’s Green Skills podcast in December.
Through my conversations with my mentor, I also started to identify the types of projects I wanted to get involved in and decided to put myself forward for a new role where I felt I would have the opportunity to work on those sorts of projects.
I’m currently just over a year in and have already gained experience in a lot of exciting projects in waste and resources that I hadn’t been able to work on before, so I’m very glad I built the confidence to make that move.
My experience of mentoring has also encouraged me to become a mentor myself. I have recently started mentoring one of my colleagues and I intend to become a mentor on the CIWM mentoring platform in future. I will continue to be a mentee too as I still have plenty of goals and aspirations to work towards with the support of my current mentor and other potential future mentors.
Why you should sign up to the mentoring platform
The above examples are all things that I achieved myself, but it made a world of difference to have someone there who had done it before and knew I already had, or could develop, the skills I needed.
I really appreciated having someone to speak to who understood my role and how it fits within the wider sector, without being someone I worked with directly, and I left every call feeling more optimistic and confident in my place in the sector. The confidence I built has translated into other parts of my life as well, especially in terms of having conviction in my ability to do something.
I would strongly encourage anyone and everyone to consider signing up to have a mentor, whether you have one specific objective you want to meet or a broad idea of something you’d like to explore.
Having someone independent to talk to and learn from is really helpful and you might just end up making a lifelong connection. There is always room for more mentors to share their stories and skills as well!