Firstly a bit about me: I am Rebecca Warren and I sit on Thakeham Homes Executive Board as Director of Planning and the Ox-Cam Arc and also Birmingham Business School’s Advisory Board.
Prior to my recent roles I have held positions as Planning Director at Crest Nicholson Plc and before that for over 20 years worked as a solicitor most recently as a Partner at Pinsent Masons specialising in Planning and Environmental law.
During my career I have championed young professionals and sought to develop them through mentoring, management and other forms of support including setting up dedicated networking groups and mentoring young solicitors and guiding those at school/university in relation to applications for jobs.
This year I have volunteered to take part in the Birmingham University mentoring scheme where I have been paired with a female planning graduate. She graduated during COVID and so there have been a number of challenges facing her and others in her position going into the workplace. We did all our meetings online via the Teams platform.
We met regularly every month and each time I encouraged her to have an agenda of what she wanted to get out of our sessions. We covered a range of topics once we had gotten to know one another and our back stories.
Those topics ranged and included review of the mentee’s CV to ensure it was tailored and as effective as possible; undertaking a mock interview; how to discuss pay and remuneration matters; what it is like as a female in the workplace; type of roles and careers available in the planning world; expanding knowledge and connections within the workplace but outside of the current role; what the mentee’s passions and plan was for the next 5 years and how she would map out how to achieve her goals; considering the type of planning work she was interested in; sharing industry knowledge; keeping abreast of current developments and using them to best effect in interviews etc.
Over our time together I saw a real difference in my mentee. She started making job applications again and was more prepared and invested in the process. She had a sense of what she wanted and whilst was not successful in one of her interviews she was able to identify that the company would not have been a good fit for her and why that was, after she reflected on the answers she had been given to some key questions she raised in her interview.
Overall her confidence seemed to grow immensely. This was all within and part of her, but needed someone to help foster it and help her to bring it to the fore. Being able to share ideas and experiences from my own professional journey as food for thought to help my mentee develop her own thinking was hugely rewarding.
Being open and engaged were critical to both of us to help make the most of our time together.
How can you support students and graduates through the mentoring scheme?
Like many mentors the experience I have gathered over the period of my career will be available to draw on.
Mentoring is about supporting you, the mentee, to find your direction and marshal your plans for your future. Being able to bounce ideas off someone who has tread the path before you can help you to navigate some of the hurdles and identify the opportunities in the early part of your career.
For me personally, I can provide insights into both law and town and country planning sectors, but generally the experience of the workplace, recruitment, management, leadership and business are the most important generic skills sets that any mentor can bring to their engagement with their mentee as those are the things that only experience teaches.