Mentoring young people – volunteering at work

How could you make social impact through volunteering at work? Mentoring young people is one way. Profusion business analyst Anne Huber might just inspire you in this Q&A with Louise Scott.

What volunteering projects have been happening at Profusion?

Right now there are 12 of us at Profusion, including me, mentoring 16-17 year old boys at Central Foundation Boys’ School. It’s about guiding them to find their way into further education or a job, help them make decisions about what they want in life, suggest where we see their strengths and give them encouragement.

Why is it needed and what’s involved?

Career paths are so different now and can be quite overwhelming for young people. They don’t need to plan for the next 40 years but it can help to have an idea for the next five, to think about what could make them happy and how to get there.

We each meet with our mentees for an hour every fortnight in a public place. The initial conversations are to find out what they’re interested in … or if they don’t know, help them find out! Then we follow topics the school gave us to guide us a bit. We also help them to write covering letters and CVs.

We’ll each have 10 sessions with our mentees before November, when they’ll need to apply for university if they want to.

Where are you at with your mentee? How is he benefitting from having a mentor?

We’ve had five sessions so far. He understands that going to university comes with a huge financial cost, so he’d like to do a degree apprenticeship where he’ll get paid to work while getting experience and a degree. Universities and organisations need to do way more to develop these kind of opportunities for young people – it’s hard to get into these types of programmes as they’re scarce.

He’s interested in the digital field – software development. He’s a very bright young man who wants to be financially independent in 5-10 years, but he’s struggling to find out what the ideal job would be that has everything he’s looking for. I’m helping him understand that it’s also about liking your employer, or the sector you work in, and that two jobs with the same title are not necessarily the same.

I feel he’s being empowered to make his own decisions and getting help to structure his thoughts. Having an adult within a business respect you and take an interest in your life is a very valuable thing for a young person. We are not here to be role models or tell them what to do but we encourage them to find their own way and help them see how others might perceive them too.

What do you get out of mentoring?

It’s nice to be able help someone with my own experience. Young people need to understand what the working environment demands of them and now I’m on the other side of being there myself I can help prepare them. Even things that seem obvious like being on time, not wearing sweatpants to job interviews or work and refraining from swearing for instance!

It’s important for employers to invest in supporting young people like this as we all get better job applicants later. It doesn’t take much.

I also want to know what the next generation is struggling with, how as a society we are working together, and what young people are interested in. Working in a tech company it helps me keep up to date with what’s going on, and it’s the next generation that comes up with the new ideas.

What other volunteering projects can you tell us about?

We’ve done some consulting work for a charity where we researched and shared what options they had in the data environment and completed a data visualisation project.

In August, four of us took part in a Hackathon ‘Data Visualisation for Good’ [get link] for a human rights organisation that needed a dashboard showing survey data to make it accessible to stakeholders and attract fundraising.

Right now we’re in contact with a London-wide service for the public to report rough sleepers and connect them with support.  We’re looking at how they can optimise the way they use data and process the information they receive and produce. We’ve seen huge potential for how they can work with data, organise and visualise it.

The food poverty charity FareShare came to our office to deliver a presentation to our staff. This really raised awareness and a lot of enthusiasm here to get involved in activities like driving food to homelessness shelters, schools and other organisations. We’re putting together a plan right now.

Why and how is Profusion involved with social causes?

We share our professional skills with charities to make impact at a higher level and empower them to provide even better services. For us, ­going into a soup kitchen to chop vegetables is great but we can use our time and expertise in much more effective and efficient ways.

We’re data and marketing experts. We have experience and training in fields that charities need support with to keep up with modern technology – especially data science. Some of the charities we talk with need support to improve how they communicate, organise themselves or store data. For example, many need help understanding GDPR as they’re not sure what data they’re allowed to use. We help them make decisions about what to do with their data and make business decisions based on their data.

There are charities we know in the homelessness and food poverty space, our chosen area, that are chronically understaffed. They need people and advice – by providing these we can improve their working lives greatly.

For more about social impact foundation Profusion Cares, go to:

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Louise Scott

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