I am incredibly passionate about coaching, developing and helping people to achieve their goals, so when I saw an opportunity advertised with the Warrington Wolves Foundation and Elevate EBP looking for business mentors, it caught my attention immediately.
This was the first time that this had ever been done in Warrington schools, and was a year-long scheme. The opportunity described needing mentors to go into local schools and support Year 9 students, from a variety of backgrounds, in helping them to understand businesses, careers and how the choices they make now will impact them in the future. I spoke with Gareth, our CEO, who was supportive in not just my personal development but also the opportunity for me to get involved in something that I was really passionate about outside of Evolution HQ.
My first visit was incredibly challenging. I was one of the popular kids when I was at school, but I soon came to realise that isn’t still the case almost two decades later. After being met with a wall of blank faces and everyone shying away from any answers that involved anything more than two words (unless it was on the subject of “Fortnite”, whatever that is) I quickly realised that this was going to be a much bigger challenge than expected. I left fairly disappointed that I had not been as effective in getting everyone to open up as I thought I would be, but determined to make my second attempt a success.
The second session wasn’t massively different, and I began to think that perhaps I just wasn’t the right person for this – but the third session was the turning point. This session was less about me, the scheme and the school, and more about them. This is where my experience as a recruiter definitely came in handy!
I really focused on what they enjoyed and what they wanted, and then helped them understand what a purpose actually is. Suddenly, I had a child that had never been outside of Warrington in his life wanting to travel to see the seven wonders of the world. I had another child taking an interest in sport through understanding that there is a lot more to being an athlete than meets the eye, including a huge variety of jobs in the field. The penny had finally dropped!
Half-way through the programme, I had achieved, “Are you coming in next week sir?”
“No, it will be the week after.”
“Awwwwwww!” (Cue the sad faces…)
I had achieved a genuine buy-in and interest in what I was doing. Result!
As we moved towards the end of the programme, we planned a fundraiser for mental health at a “family mile” hosted by the foundation. Here, we worked as a team to understand the impact of marketing, pricing and sales, and the kids were so passionate about making it a success. They went above and beyond and the day was fantastic, with many of the kids staying after the allocated time to make sure they maximised fundraising efforts.
The programme came to an end in September 2019, and I can honestly say this has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I have ever done. From when I was first allocated my group, which included some children seemingly disillusioned with what they were going to do with their lives, to finishing a programme with goal-oriented children motivated to be games designers, psychologists, or running their own businesses.
The best thing about it is that I also learnt a lot from the kids. It’s important to remember that things are vastly different from how things were five or ten years ago. There are different pressures now, different conformities, different expectations, different challenges and different careers. The world is a different place, and that’s something that I will carry with me into my day-to-day role. I’m not looking for candidates that see the world as I see it anymore – it’s about understanding, learning and coaching the youth of today to give them the best opportunity to be successful by doing something that they enjoy and are passionate about. The world of social media and technology wasn’t a challenge when I was young, but it’s now a big part of society and although it can be a threat to the youth of today, it can also be used as a tool to reach out and support, educate and inspire.
Rest assured the next time this opportunity presents itself, my name will be first in the hat to get involved!
Good luck to my group of mentees – it was a pleasure and I wish you all the best in achieving your dreams!
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