Career development through mentoring

By Emma Bird

By Jenny Zhao, Risk Analyst, EDF Energy

Envision Corporate Mentor

Fun opportunities to give something back to the community.

"I heard about Envision through some colleagues who were involved in the different youth programs ran by Envision. From their feedback, I gathered that it was a fun opportunity whilst give something back to the community.

I was looking for mentoring and coaching experience at that time, and I have always had an genuine interest in community work especially with young people. Hence, 'Legacy Champions' was a good fit for me as it was about mentoring young people.

Mentoring and coaching – a stock tool of trade for business leaders

I believe this is an essential experience for anyone who wants to progress in his or her organisation and become a successful leader or manager because it is a key tool of trade for developing people to their full potentials.

People are increasingly realising that we need to use facilitative techniques to work with the talented people around us at our workplace. The challenge in using this skill is to remain non-directive and the pay off is to see better engagement and greater commitment from people around us.

I think mentoring and coaching skills are increasingly recognised and valued by companies.

Helping young people take the lead

My ‘Legacy Champions’ students team chose to renovate a mural in their school and the goal was to bring together people from different cultures and be a community as a whole.

It was refreshing and encouraging to meet and work with young people who were very passionate about social issues. They explored a few ideas and realised they would like to address the segregation they saw in their community namely, when people hang out with their own culture only.

Corporate mentors and students are put to their first test at the Legacy Champions launch event

Over the course of the project, I have seen them grow and develop – they had to juggle this with their studies, I saw them overcome different challenges and figuring out solutions for themselves.

For example, with this project they had to contact suppliers and also engage other people to help them. Some of the students were shy initially but they were put in a place where they had to do something they weren’t comfortable with and they just did it.

Also like any group work, they also faced the challenges of getting consensus in the group decision-making process where there were different ideas on how to get things done. This is where we can facilitate the process and help them.

It is impressive to see how they overcame the challenges as a group and moved forward with the project."

Students and corporate mentors meet for the first time at the Legacy Champions launch eventThe inspiration that young people give

"It has been very inspiring to see how passionate the students are and their attitude towards change and things that are new to them. Because as adults we tend to become occupied and settled; we become risk adverse and do not want to change. We are set in our ways rather than proactively asking the question: “Is this how it should be?” I think in this matter, young people are very different. They have fresh minds; their willingness to learn and try new things is quite inspiring.

I always thought I like to learn and am willing to accept new things, but when I saw them I realised actually – I’m not really compared to them.

I asked this question to two other mentors I got to know through the mentoring programme, and they shared the same view. We feel that while we can help the students by giving them more structure to their ideas, they also in turn inspire us with their energy and enthusiasm to make things happen.

Impact on working practice

In many ways, I have definitely seen the impact of my involvement in this programme on my work.

In EDF Energy, there are different social responsibility schemes that the company supports for their employees to be involved in. It means a day or two out in a different environment from our usual workplace to do something fun and also give something meaningful back to the community we live in.

I have a renewed appreciation towards the company through my participation in this program. Not all employers provide this kind of opportunities; this makes me value the company I work for.

Also through Legacy Champions, I got to know colleagues from different parts of the organisation. It makes me truly feel that I am part of EDF Energy, not just part of the department I work in.

Better skilled in running workshops

By running facilitation workshops myself for my Legacy Champions students, and learning from experienced facilitators at Envision, I feel more confident in facilitating workshops now. This is important as part of my role involves provide trainings, running workshops and meetings with senior managers.

The programme has offered me various opportunities to practice my facilitation skills that would not have been obtained by simply attending a facilitation course."

I have already been sharing this experience with other people, involving and encouraging them to get involved because I think it is very important for people to have an interest in young people, because they are the next generation and like us, they will shape what the future will be.