Creating a two-way mentoring relationship

2 March 2022

How can two strangers, finding themselves in completely different stages in their lives and careers, learn from each other and grow? Without the Next Generations Leaders Mentorship programme, they probably wouldn’t have met. Now, meeting each other has given them an invaluable exchange of knowledge and experience. The Link met with Ranj Begley, Chief Content Officer and Managing Director UK at Readly, and the former mentee Alexandra Mierins, Legal Counsel at Mercer, for a conversation on their participation in last year’s programme. “I went into this thinking I wanted to give something back, but it ended up being such a learning experience for me too,” says Ranj.

The mentor-mentee relationship
Alexandra: We had multiple meetups with all the mentors and mentees, and the whole experience really exceeded my expectations. As for the arrangement between Ranj and I, we would meet once a month for an hour or so. Sometimes the meetings would be more structured, and sometimes more free-flowing conversations.

We would consolidate and reflect at the end of each talk, which was really helpful for my learning. And anyone who is close to me knows that I greatly looked forward to these conversations with Ranj. I always felt inspired and buzzing after them; they just gave me great momentum.

Ranj: This was the first time I was asked to become a mentor with the Chamber, so in all honesty, I was a bit apprehensive when I first met Allie. I thought “okay, here is this great lawyer, and she is super smart”, and I was a bit nervous since we are quite opposites in our career paths. Now in hindsight, I can really see why we were pulled together. I now see Allie as a friend, as opposed to that mentor and mentee relationship.

“When you speak with someone who is at a very different stage to you in their career, there’s this great cross-pollination of ideas.”

An open and positive atmosphere
Alexandra: Ranj was extremely open and warm from the start. I felt completely at ease throughout the experience, and that really helped me deep dive into the questions I wanted to ask – because she was so relatable, encouraging, and positive.

Ranj: Allie was very systematic in her approach. It was super helpful for me to get questions up front, even when we were having our less structured meetings. When she sent me the subject she wanted to talk about in advance, I would think back and prepare an example of when I had previously been in a similar situation, and together we would discuss the outcome of that. I found it easier for me to give advice on how not to do things, drawing from my own experience and mistakes.

Insight to someone else’s hindsight
Alexandra: When you’re speaking with someone who is much more experienced than you, one of the most valuable insights is to learn about the challenges they faced along the way, how they dealt with them, and what they might have done differently – it’s that insight into what someone else’s hindsight teaches them.
You have this opportunity to speak openly and candidly with someone who is outside of your office and in another industry. When you speak with someone who is at a very different stage to you in their career, there’s this great cross-pollination of ideas.

Ranj: For me, this experience was very much about learning to listen. I spend a lot of my time in meetings, sometimes switched on and sometimes switched off, depending on what the subject is. A lot of the time when I’m in these meetings, there’s this expectation to have all the answers because I’m the senior person in the room. Since I don’t know all that much about Allie’s field, I really had to listen to understand her situation and be able to offer good advice.

“Realising that I can learn a lot from a junior person, through listening and understanding, is the most valuable thing I’m taking with me in my career going forward.”

Building confidence and realising what success can look like
Alexandra: This exchange created positive momentum and helped me build confidence. It was invaluable to have this strong and natural female leader as a role model. Ranj and I did not only have practical conversations about how to prepare for a job interview or make a career change; we also had philosophical conversations about fulfilment, which made me better able to articulate what success looks like.

Ranj: I took up this programme as I felt that I was at a point in my career where I wanted to give something back. Then when I was in it, I found that it was so nice to speak to someone ‘fresh’, somebody outside my industry, and to establish a relationship. In fact, the whole process was a huge learning experience for me too.

Learning from each other
Alexandra: Among the most important lessons I learned from Ranj, is to stay true to yourself, be authentic, feel proud of who you are and not try too hard to fit in. On leadership, Ranj taught me the importance of remembering to be human; to ask people how they are doing as opposed to just pushing them to meet objectives. I think everything I’ve learned from Ranj is highly applicable to various scenarios that I’ve either already encountered or am very likely to encounter in my professional life.

Ranj: I’ve learned some very valuable lessons from my conversations with Allie, one of them being that I, as a mentor, do not have to have all the answers. It’s more of being able to guide, provide feedback and most importantly ask questions, which helps find a solution. It was a two-way thing, as Allie also inspired me to understand and manage a few of my own work-related projects. Realising that I can learn a lot from a junior person, through listening and understanding, is the most valuable thing I’m taking with me in my career going forward.

The benefits of mentorship programmes
Ranj: I’ve recommended an employee of mine to apply as a mentee for the Next Generation Leaders Mentorship programme because I can really see the power in this type of exchange. I also think Allie should become a mentor in the future. With new people coming in, and old mentees becoming mentors, I think this kind of programme creates a beautiful circle of continuous knowledge sharing – I think it’s brilliant.

Alexandra: Joining this mentorship programme is a great opportunity to learn about someone else, as well as yourself. Your mentor is very likely to have been in your shoes, they can act as a sounding board, you can bounce ideas off of them and discuss different scenarios and strategies. The group meetups also give exposure to a broader network of dynamic people who are coming from all different professional backgrounds. It gives you the chance to network in a context that doesn’t feel like networking; it feels like you’re amongst friends.


Learn more about the Next Generation Leaders Mentorship programme

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