Derek Higgs

Derek talks about his experience mentoring at Plymouth

I was looking for a new challenge and saw the opportunity to mentor with Plymouth. What attracted me was the chance to mentor individuals outside of my Government Department employer which would test my skills in different ways.

This is my second year mentoring and for me it has been a brilliant experience and very rewarding. Both students have been great ambassadors for the University and a pleasure to work with. As well as passing on the benefit of my experience, I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to know each student and their stories.

To get the best out of the relationship, it’s important as a mentor to devote the time needed to understand and work with the student to help them take their own personal development forward. Setting expectations and boundaries at the outset is also crucial as well as being open and approachable. Keeping a sense of perspective helps as does having fun along the journey!

We have covered networking, presentations, maintaining professional working relationships, CVs, diversity, time management and meeting deadlines and conflicting priorities for example. Career wise I’ve used my networking to provide opportunities to talk to different professionals helping to widen perspectives about career options on graduation.

Visiting my office and attending team meetings has also let each student see how a workplace operates, experience different management styles and identify how individual personalities influence team dynamics.

Both students have wanted the chance to practice interview techniques and I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction from putting mock competency based interviews together, selecting suitable role vacancies and forming a panel of experienced interviewers. The interviews have proved a really valuable experience in different ways and there has been real value in receiving feedback in a safe environment. I’ve received great feedback with each student commenting that they feel much more confident of delivering a strong interview.

Whilst it’s been great helping others at the start of their career journey, the benefits are not all one way. Mentoring with Plymouth has provided me with the experience and skills needed to successfully apply for another role against stiff competition.

To anyone contemplating mentoring, I would say go for it! You will get such a lot out of the mentoring relationship as it is a mutual learning experience. Nina and the Employability team are also very supportive and there when needed.