Sophie's 5 top tips for mentoring with CMN

Written by

Sophie | Mentor | Product Developer at Rapha

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June 4, 2017

Rapha Product Developer, Sophie Brown tells us what she learned and shares her advice for those just starting out the CMN mentoring process.

In early February I was offered the opportunity to get involved in mentoring through work - a colleague had completed the programme before me and I was excited by the concept and values of Creative Mentor Network. I was introduced to Ava, a softly spoken and super talented student with an interest in Art and Textile design.

Initially, I was a little daunted by the responsibility of supporting someone with their career direction at 17, but reminded myself how I would have welcomed this opportunity and it’s value. Witnessing Ava’s confidence grow throughout our time together has been one of my most rewarding experiences.

KEEP IT SIMPLE & VARIED

Having met Ava for the first time at the end of February, I instantly felt the need to arrange something exciting and inspiring each week - I wanted to combine her enthusiasm with my motivation to show her the range of opportunities available.  Whilst variety of experience can be important, it was equally valuable to meet Ava for a coffee and have a chat. Ironically, the creative industries can be quite insular and it's easy to forget that young people can be unaware of the nuances and subtleties of networking and not always understand how the industry works. 

YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU DO 

There were times when I questioned what I could offer Ava but surprised myself when I thought about practical ways in which I could offer support. 

Meeting at a gallery, seeing an exhibition, arranging for her to sit in a concept meeting with a designer and setting up a LinkedIn profile with her were all ways that encouraged an understanding of the field and increased her exposure. Travelling on the underground to a new place for 2pm is just as relevant when you consider future interviews, meetings or open days.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON AND THEIR POINT OF VIEW

I grew up in rural North Devon, feeling alienated from artistic opportunity and struggled to break into the industry so can understand and relate to the frustrations that many experience. 

There can be a perception within the creative world of work that the extrovert leads and succeeds. This was something that I was aware intimidated Ava. 

To help challenge this I spoke to her about my own experiences, and introduced her to friends and colleagues that had progressed with a quieter persona. One morning we met Maeve a production coordinator at Osman who explained that she felt she was often approached more in the office as she kept calm and was willing to listen. It was this skill that had enabled her to resolve and find solutions to problems quickly at work.

GOALS DON’T JUST HAVE ONE MEANING / OUTCOME

Ava clearly had a talent and interest in Textiles but was understandably unaware of courses and career options that were available to her. 

Whilst our end goal became about developing an understanding of the industry and different roles that were available, we took an explorative route and it was rewarding to see Ava's excitement and confidence grow by meeting new people and asking questions about their careers and the paths they took. 

Visiting shows, talking about the work and speaking about our favourite pieces supported Ava to develop her own opinion and understand that there is often no right or wrong answer.

Ava always carried big sketchbooks from Art class with her  when we met but was reluctant to share and show me the projects that she was working on. One afternoon at the Fashion and Textiles museum I introduced her to a Designer so they could speak about portfolio building and talk about her work. It was on this occasion that Ava started to show us school projects and some of her sketches, it was a small but significant example of her confidence growing.

IT’S ALL IMPORTANT - (YOUR NORMAL DIFFERS THEIR NORMAL)

From when we were first introduced, Ava seemed really articulate and a great communicator so I was surprised to find out that she had taken some time writing her first few emails which appeared effortless to me. When Ava first came to Rapha and each time we met she was reluctant to accept a drink and I sensed that this was uncomfortable for her when we met in coffee shops. However, the last time we met she had ordered a cup of tea!

A loud and busy office environment can be intimidating to navigate especially when you're 17 so we met at Rapha for the first time and I took the time to show Ava around the office and our team. I introduced her to colleagues and explained the roles of different departments, and how they all fit in with the wider business. As part of the development team our area is surrounded by mood boards, prints, fabrics and samples and the speed of the information shared can be overwhelming.

GET OTHERS INVOLVED / IT'S A COLLABORATION

My network of friends are all my age so it had been some time since I had interacted with a 17-year-old. It was refreshing to  learn from someone at the beginning of their career / just leaving school. I did feel protective of her, but felt inspired to see her flourish in new surroundings. Mentoring is a great way to develop an understanding of young people  and has been invaluable in helping me support and inspire new interns and assistants in our team. I would do it all over again.  

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