Linda Urquhart (Mentor) & Brenda Jones (Mentee)

Mentoring case study: Brenda Jones (mentee) and Linda Urquhart (mentor)

Sheryl Sandberg said women should 'Lean in' to develop their careers.  I am a firm believer in 'reaching out'.  The Women in Property mentoring programme is an excellent way for women in our industry to reach out to get help with their career development and to help others.

After I qualified as a Project Manager in the construction industry, I came across a number of women who were good at their jobs.  They were considered to be a 'safe pair of hands', capable of handling work with minimal supervision.  But their careers didn't progress. I realised that there was a risk of the same thing happening to me. So I decided that I needed to get some help.

I joined the Women in Property mentoring scheme and was paired with Linda Urquhart as my mentor.  At the time, Linda was Chief Executive of law firm Morton Fraser. Linda continued to develop her career during our mentoring relationship; she became Chairman of Morton Fraser, Chairman in Scotland of the business lobbying group CBI and was awarded an OBE.  I felt very privileged to have her as my mentor!

My goal for the mentoring relationship was to get a Director position in a private sector firm.  I achieved the private sector job within a few months; the Director role took a bit longer!  I'm now Director for Parsons Brinckerhoff's project management services in Scotland, so Linda and I have now brought our mentoring relationship to an end.  It was an enormous help in reaching this goal.

How did it do this?

  1. Firstly, Linda helped me to see what companies are looking for in senior staff.  I work for a consultancy practice.   Senior staff are expected to bring in work and manage other staff.  Suddenly the penny dropped that just being good at my professional role wasn't enough!
  2. Secondly, the mentoring relationship helped me to set interim goals.  Linda always kept good notes and asked me at the next session how I'd got on.  I felt accountable to Linda for the actions I'd agreed; this helped me to focus and overcome barriers.
  3. Linda helped me to prepare for interviews.  I had three interviews during the mentoring relationship and got the new job each time! Linda helped me to be clear about my strengths and encouraged me to be myself.   This was especially important in the interview for my current role, as I was competing against external candidates.

After an initial face to face meeting, Linda and I used to speak on the phone once every three to six months.  As we both had busy jobs and children, our mentoring sessions were on the telephone from 9 to 10pm.  At the start, my son was 8 years old.  I remember worrying that it would look unprofessional if he interrupted me during a mentoring session, but I managed to persuade him not to!  Now he's a teenager and I'm quite pleased when he speaks to me at all! 

I'm very grateful to Linda for her commitment to me.  She had a very busy job and lots of other calls on her time but she always gave me her full attention and good advice.

Whatever your job and your career goals, mentoring can help you to achieve them. The advantages of the Women in Property scheme are:

  1. You have access to mentors outside your own organisation
  2. You have access to mentors from different professional disciplines. This avoids you ending up with a mentor from a competitor organisation.
  3. Women in Property provides training and ongoing support, so you and your mentor/mentee have a clear idea of how to manage the relationship effectively  - and if you have any problems, there is someone to turn to .
  4. It's completely free to Women in Property members!

Mentoring also provides great benefits to the mentors.  Linda advised me that she had greatly enjoyed our mentoring relationship.  When I asked her what she had got out of the relationship she told me:-

"Brenda was my very first mentee and a bit of a guinea pig for me.  I learnt a lot about mentoring 'on the job'.  Brenda was a very able and enthusiastic mentee, always happy to take on board suggestions and good at following up on things we had discussed.  I often felt that I'd not brought much to a discussion other than a listening ear or a questioning voice, but I know that the conversations would help Brenda order or prioritise things for herself.  Working with her in a mentoring relationship helped me see the benefits of mentoring, not least the encouragement of someone independent of your manager and someone to whom you felt accountable.  Building a relationship where the mentee was responsive and making good progress in her career was rewarding and enjoyable for me.  There were also occasions when I picked Brenda's brains about her specialist area, project management, which was useful to me.  I think it's important to set out at the start of the relationship, clearly, what you're trying to achieve, and check progress against that.  I'm delighted that Brenda has achieved her objective.  It was a privilege for me to be part of her career journey and we continue to keep in touch."    

I recently volunteered to become a mentor and did the mentoring training again. I think that being a mentor will help to develop my communication skills as well as being an opportunity to give something back!

So don't wait to be asked! 

Reach out and join the Women in Property mentoring scheme now!

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