My mentoring Journey at HDN – Kieran O’Byrne

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Now that this year’s HDN Mentees Programme has completed I thought it might be worth sharing my experience of the course, so I’m going to post a couple of blogs about it. This may be beneficial for those who’ve applied for this year’s programme and anyone who has wondered what having a mentor is like.

I joined Barnet Homes in August 2010 not knowing anything about housing, literally nothing. I had previously worked in banking and having left that industry in the February of that year, by the August, I really needed a job! I signed up to a recruitment agency and within 48hours I was at a desk in the Operations Support Team of Barnet Homes.

Fast forward 4 and a half years and a lot had changed in Barnet Homes. However, sadly, I hadn’t. I’d not really done anything of note up to that point, and certainly not anything I could say I was proud of. I would turn up to work on a Monday at 9 am (sometimes quarter past!) looking for the easiest route to 5 pm on a Friday.

Maybe it was turning 30 and seeing my friends start going places in their career or maybe something else, I’m not sure, but I’d reached a real low career wise. I wanted more from myself. I started putting my hand up at work to volunteer for things that I didn’t have to do. I started doing extra work and hanging around with staff members of a higher level to me that were in the kind of jobs that I wanted. Most importantly, I got rid of all the negative thoughts of why my career wasn’t going anywhere and decided to give positivity a go.

A year later, at the start of 2016, I’d achieved a lot in my role. People were looking at me differently; not just those in my service area but senior members of staff who’d been the recipients of work that I’d done. I’d raised my profile in the business so much so that I secured a secondment at a higher level. I was at a point where I could give myself a pat on the back. It was only a year previous that a colleague at the time had suggested that I’d be better off leaving and starting again somewhere else than trying to improve my image in the business.

HDN Programme changed my life

In May 2016 I heard that The Barnet Group was offering a mentoring programme through the Housing Diversity Network. With a focus on personal development over the previous year, this programme promised to be a good avenue for me to gain knowledge and advice from an external senior member of staff in the Housing Sector.

My expectations and aims of the programme were ones that I think most people who joined had. These included:

• Learn more about other Housing organizations and how they operate
• Build my confidence and self-awareness
• Gain interview skills
• Get some guidance and direction about what the next steps in my career should be
• Develop influencing skills

Prior to the first session, I was allocated a mentor who was matched with me by HDN using our applications. I got to see who he was, what he offered as a mentor and a copy of his CV.

At the first session, I was introduced to my mentor and the other mentees in the group. We looked at what we should expect over the programme and the expectations of mentors and mentees. During the programme we had 4 classroom sessions relating to a number of different topics and tools to be used for both career development and personal growth. In addition to this, we were encouraged to have at least the same amount of one to one sessions with our mentors.

One 2 One Mentor Sessions

My mentor was a Director at the National Housing Federation. It was slightly daunting as I hadn’t had a lot of interaction with people at that level but when the session started we were just two people having a chat about life with one offering the other advice. I’d heard from some of the other mentees that their sessions were strictly about business and developing their career, but my mentor and I talked about everything. It wasn’t quite therapy but it was good to be able to get the perspective of a neutral person.

Our sessions were great as I was able to have time with someone whose career I wanted in some ways to emulate. We talked about my career but we mainly focused on what made me happy and made me question whether Housing was something I wanted to stay in or look for different challenges.

I won’t go into all the details of my sessions but the point I wanted to make was that it was good having someone ask me questions and giving me perspectives on things that I hadn’t considered. This wasn’t about what he could do for me in my career but what I wanted from life.

Granted not everyone will have or even want the same as I did from a mentor but I’m glad I got the opportunity to have one. In my next blog, next week, I’ll talk about what we covered in the classroom sessions.

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