GCS Mentoring Programme – Owen Roffe inspires

Blog post by Owen Roffe

Friday 28 November 2014

GCS Mentoring Programme – Owen Roffe inspires

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” – Phil Collins

I’ve never consciously drawn inspiration from Phil Collins, and didn’t expect to do so when becoming a GCS mentor last year. But while doing a spot of Google research, it was a surprise to find one of his lyrics among a list of quotations on the subject of mentoring.

Inspiration comes from many different sources, though, and Collins certainly seems to hit the right note here. Being a mentor is a genuine opportunity to learn new things as well as teaching or (more accurately) guiding people through a particular stage of their career.

My GCS mentoring stint gave me the privilege of working with people in different communications disciplines, in different parts of the country, in a Whitehall department and in an arm’s length body.

My mentees entered the process with enthusiasm and a real commitment to learn. We kept in regular contact and met monthly to review progress and discuss new challenges. It wasn’t a massive time commitment, and I looked forward to these meetings as part of a busy schedule.

To be a successful mentor I’d say you need to be a good listener, able to develop rapport quickly and help people find their own answers based on your guidance and feedback. It’s tempting to jump in and say “here’s what you need to do”, but that’s not necessarily the most productive way of dealing with individual challenges. Using your experience to guide and encourage self-reflection is a healthier alternative.

Strictly as an optional extra, I arranged work shadowing within my department. Each of my mentees spent a day with the team here and got to sample a range of different problem solving approaches. We covered all sorts of issues – from developing professional credibility by building a personal ‘brand’, through to setting up a social media presence and engaging with international audiences.

In return, the people I mentored themselves gave me healthy challenges and new perspectives. To come back to where I started, it was satisfying to see progress in others but I learned a lot about myself as part of the deal. You don’t really need me (or Phil Collins) to talk about the benefits of mentoring, though. All you need to do is try it yourself in the next round of the GCS programme.


For more information of GCS Mentoring Programme and how to apply for Cohort 4