This year I’ve had the opportunity to shake things up a bit by working with sixth form students from Tong Leadership Academy as part of our One Million Futures initiative. It aims to help one million people get to where they want to be; whether it’s in the classroom, the workplace or the boardroom. We are working with over 50 of the most inspiring social enterprises, charities and schools across the UK including Tong Leadership Academy.
It’s hard to say what my expectations were at the start of my mentoring journey, but I was blown away by the effort and commitment of the students. They have interacted with the mentors, and each other, with great enthusiasm and passion, making my role all the more interesting and rewarding.
Having been at Deloitte for over 10 years, I have developed a set way of walking and talking that isn’t likely to elicit a consistent level of engagement from 6th form students! I feel this was the biggest challenge for us as mentors, to remove ourselves from the ‘corporate speak’ and create content that would strike the right balance of being informative, relevant and relatable to as many of the students as possible.
Once we stripped back the Professional Services jargon we landed on content that we felt could be applied to any person beginning their career journey, including interview techniques, presentation skills, body language, communication and managing social media. The first session, an employability workshop, was really well received and students were eager to participate, learn and ask further questions. I really enjoyed interacting with the students and watching them absorb the content through role play exercises.
But did we strip it back enough?
Probably not. We hadn’t fully prepared ourselves for the wide range of career ambitions that the students held. From surgeons to zoologists, midwives to mechanics and students who ranged from having clarity over what they wanted to do and how they would get there, to those still seeking inspiration on what to do next. Although we really enjoyed the day and received excellent feedback from the school, we still had a sense we could have done more to meet the diverse ambitions of the 40 or so students.
This gave us a renewed vigour for the next workshop, a simulation game designed to draw on the students creative skills and ability to manage their time in an unpredictable set of circumstances. We really wanted to take the students outside of their comfort zone, and encourage them to identify skills they didn’t know they had.
The Chocolate Bar challenge was ideal, it involved splitting the students into teams, each with different responsibilities to design, advertise, package and create a budget for a new chocolate bar. They then had to sell it to a panel of ‘investors’. Think of ‘The Apprentice’ and you get the idea!
I was again taken aback by the students. They were attentive from the moment they entered the building, keen to impress and most importantly extremely inclusive. I couldn’t believe it as I saw students actively ensuring their class mates were given the opportunity to participate in turn, to all have a voice and to work in a calm manner despite the curve balls being thrown at them.
Overall it has been a pleasure to act as a mentor to the students of Tong, and I look forward to seeing them develop on their individual career journeys.
The icing on the cake is the feedback from the school. Christine Webster, Director of Post-16 Education at Tong, said: “It was an excellent day, really well organised and left the students with a positive experience and realisation of how they can rise to any challenge. It was creative and kept them entertained throughout. The mentors are really good at putting students at ease and all in all it was a day that was effective at developing and uncovering lots of the soft skills we take for granted through a fun and challenging task.”