‘I love seeing men and women develop and grow and exceed their own expectations’

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Being a mentor – and a mentee – can have a huge impact on your professional life. This is something The Gender Index Chairman Jill Pay knows first hand. She has mentored over 20 men and women, and has received mentoring herself, throughout her career. Here, Jill explains the positive impact of mentorship… 


What is your experience of being mentored?

The mentoring I’ve received over the years has been a huge benefit for my career, and helped me achieve things I never imagined. When I was in my first job in advertising, one of the account executives was a woman who I greatly admired and saw as a role model. She was my first mentor. My most impactful mentor was during my journey to move from a management role to a leadership role. He saw potential in me that I didn’t recognise and created opportunities for me to develop through experience in short term projects outside my comfort zone. This saw me travel to European countries to deliver presentations and to lead the delegation.

I had several mentors when I first worked in the House of Commons, senior women and men who strongly supported the need for change that I had been brought in to deliver.   They acted as sounding boards for my ideas for change, and reined me in when it might have been a step too far. When I became Serjeant at Arms, I found expert mentors who could advise me on aspects of the role where I was less experienced. 

Can you share your experiences of being a mentor?

Just as being mentored has had a positive benefit on my career, mentoring others has had a huge impact too.

My first experience of mentoring was two college students who were on an art and design project in the Enterprise Technology Centre. I was the business manager there and the project was between colleges in Croydon, Spain and Denmark. The students weren’t confident working via video conferencing, let alone travelling to Europe. I worked with them to develop their self-belief and to realise the opportunities in front of them. The project (to design, realise and install playground Lego) was a great success and they were able to present the results to college Principals and Directors of the companies involved. 

What are the main benefits of being a mentor? What do you enjoy most?

I love seeing men and women develop and grow and exceed their own expectations. A lot of mentoring is about encouraging self-belief in the mentee: that if they believe they can do something, they can do it.  

It is about helping mentees to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, and areas for growth. A mentor can encourage them to find role models they can identify with, and define the qualities they want to model.

 What are the main benefits of being a mentee and how do you get the most out of your mentoring experience? 

A mentoring relationship provides a safe, non-judgemental environment where concerns, fears, aspirations and other issues can be shared in confidence. A mentor brings experience, worldliness, different perspectives and insights to the relationship and will often share mistakes they’ve made that you can learn from. It’s a huge benefit to learn from someone who has been there before.

It’s important to have good rapport with your mentor(s) and it’s worth spending time on exploring and developing the relationship at the start. Sometimes you might find the mentor relationship is not going to work and it’s better not to proceed. And that’s okay – it’s better to realise that early on and speak up. 

What have been your highlights of being a mentor?

There have been lots! Two of my mentees have had books published, others have received academic recognition of their business leadership achievements. Some have been appointed to roles that weren’t even on their horizon in the early days of our relationship and have become esteemed managers and leaders. I believe it is a mutually beneficial experience and I’d encourage anyone to do it if they can.   

What have been your highlights of being a mentee?

Being mentored has helped me enormously over the years. The main benefits I’ve found are having rock solid support and knowing there are people there who have your back. It’s really empowering knowing your mentor will guide you towards achieving aspirations, and through difficult times.

I’ve also really enjoyed being able to recognise my mentors’ roles in my professional achievements and to share successes with them. Mentoring has so many positive outcomes, and it’s something I’d recommend to everyone!

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