On becoming a mentor...
On the personal news front, I'm pleased and proud to be a mentor for the University of the Arts London/London College of Communication's Industry Mentoring Programme.
People have asked me: why do you want to be a mentor? Well, where do I start?
I love it, but journalism and publishing is a tough industry to work in, and even harder to get a start in. Without the support and mentorship of several key people over the years (you all know who you are...), my career could have been an unrewarding flop.
Being a journalist has allowed me to meet people I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise (and ask them all sorts of nosy questions!), to travel to places that I'd never be able to visit on my own, to find out how media organisations really tick, and to learn what motivates people, from winemakers to restaurateurs, farmers and cooks, to do the things they do. I've worked with brilliant writers and authors, talented designers – and, yes, dealt with some difficult people along the way. And, at the risk of sounding corny, I want to give something back.
One of the things I've enjoyed most in my career is teaching others – although I actually learn more from them in the process... And, frankly, who wouldn't want to be involved with bright, talented and ambitious people with big ideas and big plans? We all learn from each other.
There is something else, too. Journalism and publishing have a (sadly, deserved) reputation for being exclusive – closed entry for people who don't have the 'right' background, who lack the connections from people in high places that they can rely on for a leg up. And not everyone can afford to work for free in the unpaid internships on which the industry has long relied until an employer at last deigns to give them their first (often poorly paid) job.
We can do better than this. And we need to.
The industry needs to be more open, more diverse. If not, we all lose out as a consequence – from potential writers whose stories don't get told and whose valuable insights get overlooked, to the readers and audiences who miss out on hearing voices that challenge preconceived notions.
Everyones deserves the opportunity to maximise their skills and life chances. It's not about where you come from, but where you're going. I'd like to be able to use my experience and the skills I have gained to help the next generation of students recognise and realise their abilities.
I loved my first mentoring session with my super-bright and keen mentee @ms._.sharma – who I know has a shining career ahead of her.
A few people I've spoken to have asked how they can get involved in mentoring. There are plenty of schemes out there but you can find out more about the LCC mentoring programme here. The mentoring thing is all new to me. I know I have a lot to learn but I'm enjoying the journey so far.