Mike Hood, director, employee benefits, BP International
There have been two occasions, early in my career, where individuals who didn’t have to mentor me took an interest. They helped me make decisions that I would have struggled with on my own, and were instrumental in my career thereafter. So at critical points in my development, somebody voluntarily took on the role of mentor – and it’s had quite an impact.
I left school at 16. I wanted to get out of formal education, and I turned down every single piece of advice offered to me. A couple of years later I was working as a technician in a college in the Birmingham area when a colleague on the academic staff took an interest in my development, recognising that I was wasting my ability.
What he did, which is part of the mentoring toolkit, was to hold up a mirror for me to look into. He then offered counsel around some of the possibilities that looking in that mirror had forced me to confront. It was an experience that helped create a sense of opportunity for me, and then helped me to open some doors.
Here was somebody going out of their way to offer me advice that I really ought to listen to. It was a case of an intervention in a non-threatening manner, then having someone there to bounce ideas off. I went back to studying, doing my A levels part-time before going to university.
My second mentoring experience occurred when I was in my late twenties and had already begun my career in HR. I was working for British Steel when a new site personnel manager was appointed. I was two levels below him, not a direct report, but he recognised something in me. He challenged me by offering me some different roles to look at, and created opportunities for me to be able to move from one position to another. This relationship lasted for three or four years.
He was prepared to take a risk with me, where others would have been more cautious. This was a relationship involving more of the classic one-to-one exchanges. I learnt a great deal from this person, from watching him in action and from his counselling.
I don’t have a mentor now, but it’s something that would interest me. I think that it’s rare for a mentoring relationship not to be beneficial.