What makes a great mentor?

Every person who comes on bootcamp has the opportunity to sign up for a personal mentor to support them in their campaign journey.

Every person who comes on bootcamp has the opportunity to sign up for a personal mentor to support them in their campaign journey.

Mentoring relationships typically last a year and are a great opportunity to peer learn, hone skills, share experience and expand your campaigning networks. Here is my guide to making the most out of mentoring:

Mentoring 101

What do the bootcampers expect from their mentor?

  • Someone to give guidance and advice, insights and experience
  • Someone who can help the mentee set and achieve goals relating to the areas of development they identify as most important
  • Someone who can introduce to the mentee to new concepts, campaigns and people within the sector to help widen their network

What being a Bootcamp mentor involves:

  • You’ll meet your mentee (at least) four times across the year
  • You can conduct meet-ups either face to face or over the phone/via Skype. Find the way that works best for you both
  • At your first session you will both sign an agreement (an example agreement is included at the end of this pack). The agreement will outline:
    • When you will meet
    • How/where you will meet
    • The main things you want to work on together. Setting concrete goals and targets if applicable
    • How you will stay in touch with each other

Structuring your sessions

The best mentor relationships come from having a sense of direction and planning for each meeting you arrange. Once you have completed your mentoring agreement in your first session try to stick to it.

We would suggest meeting your mentee four times, but if you find you’d like meet more frequently, then by all means go for it! Your base four sessions could focus on:

1. Getting to know each other

This session could focus on getting to know each other’s campaign interests and capacity. You should fill out a mentoring agreement together, this will lay out what you both would like to get out of mentoring and help you set goals for what you want to work on together.

It might also be a good space to check in with how campaigning makes your mentee feel – what are the mental highs and lows of being a campaigner passionate for change? The session could also be used as an opportunity to talk about your interests outside of campaigning and what you do for self care.

2. Current campaigns – Part 1

You should begin this session by referring back to the goals you set in the first session. Then focus on these in relation to the campaign(s) that your mentee is currently working on. Is it a campaign that they are passionate about? If yes – great! If not, what steps could they take to make it work for them? Other things you could explore include:

– What’s difficult about the campaign(s)?

– Are there specific practical skills they could do with improving?

– Or on a personal note, how do they find communicating what they need/want from the campaign to others?

– Alternatively, are they are trying to work on an application for a new campaigning job or looking for work experience/training? Is this something you could work on together?

This session should be all about the now. Make notes to refer back to next time.


3. Current campaigns – Part 2

Follow up on what you discussed in the last session and refer to the notes you made. Has there been any progress in the things you wanted to change? Continue to work on these targets. Are there resources / connections you can refer them to to help them in their journey?

4. Future campaigns

The fourth session could follow up on the aims of the last and set out to plan how your mentee can sustain themselves within campaigning. It might be nice to think about where the mentee sees their campaigning journey going in the future and to come up with practical steps they could take towards achieving their aims. Equally you could continue to discuss the points raised previously and monitor progress.

Mentoring Top Tips

These are a mix of top tips from our experience, and from a brilliant blog by Kirsty.

1. Value the mentee as a person – not the work they’re doing. It can be easy to focus conversations just on the campaigns mentees are working on, but remember that they’re worth isn’t build on what they’re doing but who they are.

2. Be generous with what you know: What should your mentee listen to, watch, read or attend if they want to develop their potential?

3. When you can, be generous with who you know! What events or campaigning spaces can you invite your mentee to join you at where you can introduce them to people? Access to spaces and people they wouldn’t otherwise meet will make a big difference.

4. Be self-reflective: if you can share your mistakes and disappointments, alongside tips for success you’ll build a more trusting and open relationship with your mentee. They will be more likely to share their fears and anxieties if they know that you too have made mistakes!

5. Set clear ground rules from the outset so that you can sustain and maintain the relationship. How much time can you realistically give? What are your expectations of the mentee? For instance, you may need them to bring well-researched questions to the session for you to feel it’s a valuable use of your time.

6. Be honest! Be positive and encouraging, but don’t act as their source of unconditional enthusiasm. As Kirsty says: “A mentor isn’t there for that, but instead to give people practical tools and tips to navigate the challenges they face. If your mentee doesn’t leave a conversation with you with to do list, you haven’t done your job.”

7. Help the mentee solve their own problem, rather than give direct advice. Often, it will be really helpful to share stories of your own experience – but don’t fall into the trap of simply telling your mentee how they should handle the issue. Ask questions that help them come to their own solution instead.

8. Have fun and enjoy it! New campaigners can help re-inspire us, see things in a different way and generally shake up our patterns.

Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health and how to stay mentally healthy whilst campaigning is a core part of the Bootcamp syllabus. This means we create an environment where many Bootcampers feel safe to talk openly about their mental health.

We don’t expect you to discuss your own personal issues in your mentoring sessions. However if your mentee discloses something to do with their mental health, wellbeing or anything else that concerns you, that you don’t feel confident addressing, you can:

  • Encourage them to seek help by speaking to someone in their personal support network or by visiting their GP.
  • Send them in the direction of mental health charity Mind for information about their local group.
  • Let the Bootcamp team know. You don’t have to specify any information about the issue, but we are always keen to know if someone needs extra support.

You’re ready to go!

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