My Womentoring experience – Jane Cook (BA 2008)5 December 2023
In March 2023, independent PR consultant Jane Cook (BA 2008) took part in our annual flash mentoring scheme for Cardiff’s alumnae – Womentoring. Here, Jane reflects on her experience of mentoring several fellow alumnae and shares insights for those considering taking part in next year’s scheme.
Why did you decide to join the Womentoring scheme as a mentor?
I was quite shocked to be approached to take part, actually! I’d seen that previous mentors worked for big organisations, in positions where they’d be managing large teams or huge budgets. While I have a network of freelancers that I tap into for different projects, I’m very much self-employed.
It was very flattering to be asked, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that while at university I didn’t ever think I would end up working for myself. I would have liked to have heard from a range of people who took different paths.
What makes a women’s mentoring scheme important to you?
A mentoring scheme where women help other women is right up my alley. As the years have gone by, I’ve become aware that life is much harder for women in the workplace.
I entered a very corporate environment when I first graduated and didn’t really have an understanding of the barriers that exist for women. Whether that’s having to juggle things like maternity leave and childcare; or taking on more emotional labour at work because it’s deemed a female skill. There are lots of ways that the workplace can be more difficult for women who have kids and those that don’t.
So, if a woman needs lifting up or can be the potential candidate for a role, then instinctively I have a sort of reaction where I want that to go to her.
Can you tell us about what the mentoring involved?
I had a kick-off call with all three of my mentees to discuss what our careers to date looked like, why we decided to get involved in the scheme from both sides, and what we were looking to learn from it. I tried to pick out similarities in what my mentees wanted to do next, such as changing careers to a different path.
Then I had two or three one-on-one calls over the course of about six weeks, where I’d pose a few questions. My mentees were on the cusp of taking a next step or had already laid down the groundwork, so the calls felt like check-ins while they continued that journey.
How did it feel to see that one of your mentees, Jamie Marie Ellis, published her first piece of freelance food writing earlier this year?
If I have in any way helped with Jamie’s confidence to put herself out there, then I’m really thrilled! It’s a fascinating piece of writing and the feedback from my community has been really strong. I’m sure that Jamie will have plenty more where that came from.
It was really nice to be someone who could cheer on my mentees. I could see they were all going to get where they were going, and that mentoring them was just a case of helping to build confidence. I’d leave every call and think, “She’s going to be great and just needs to go for it”.
Do you have any top tips for alumni looking to join the 2024 Womentoring scheme?
Try to listen as much as you can and eke out the thinking behind the person that you’re mentoring.
During my sessions, I would instinctively find myself asking my mentees if they had tried this or that action, and I had to remember that it’s not necessarily about trying to find the right contact or next step. While that’s helpful, it’s not the primary purpose of your role as a mentor.
Sometimes you need to be a bit patient and let a thought develop naturally. There might be a few pauses, but try not to jump in.
How has mentoring positively impacted your own career?
I’ve never done any mentoring before, so it was really useful to learn that your job as a mentor isn’t necessarily to solve a problem. It’s more to help somebody through their train of thought and unpick the things that might be holding them back.
It actually made me think about whether I wanted to get a mentor for myself! I could see the benefit on both sides, and I’d be interested in doing it again in the future.
Jamie Marie Ellis (MA 2019), one of Jane’s mentees, also shared her experience of the Womentoring scheme.
If you’re a Cardiff alum keen to find, or become a mentor for a fellow graduate, our alumni networking platform Cardiff Connected helps you find the right match. It’s quick and easy to register, and you can filter by industry and location to search those offering or asking for help.
There are also lots of other ways you can volunteer your time and expertise to help inspire and support the next generation of Cardiff University students and alumni.