My mentor: Victoria Woodison, HR director, UK and Ireland, Gate Gourmet

My first formal mentoring relationship began 18 months ago. I decided to approach someone in the business – someone in HR, but not in my direct reporting line.

I wanted to develop myself, and my career, and to find out how to handle difficult situations through learning from other people’s experiences. So I approached someone for whom I had a lot of respect. I’d seen how he communicated, how he dealt with situations and how he solved problems. And I liked his pragmatic approach.

Gate Gourmet then introduced a formal talent programme, including a mentoring programme for all participants. As part of that programme, I was entitled to a mentor. Although the mentors were allocated by the company, with some luck, and a little bit of persuasion, I managed to end up with the same person.

Initially, we met more formally and more often – about once a month. As the relationship has developed, and as we have become more comfortable with each other, this has changed. We might meet for lunch and a chat, or I might just phone him for advice. It has become a little more about bouncing ideas around or sharing my concerns, whereas at the start it was much more about my formal development plans.

He was a great support when I was applying for my current role. We were getting a new managing director at the time, so I had to try to convince a new boss that I was the right person for the job. Clearly, he had no experience of me, and no knowledge of me other than what people had told him. I had to do a sales pitch on why he should appoint me, and my mentor was a great source of support and motivation.

He has helped immensely with my confidence. For me, that’s been one of the key benefits of the mentoring relationship. Getting feedback in a safe environment, where you can both challenge and listen to it, has improved my confidence no end.

He has also introduced me to people – he has set up meetings for me with his contacts. He has real confidence in me, and has challenged me, to get the best out of me. He has helped me see what I have achieved – and what I can achieve.

If this mentoring relationship were to end – for whatever reason – I would certainly look for another mentor. Next time I would look for someone who could help me develop my commercial expertise.

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