Mike, mentor at Solihull College & Newman University: From hyperactive to active listening

Mike Worthington is a Customer Success Manager/Consultant for sales-i, where he works closely with businesses to help them improve performance and boost sales. Since he was a child, Mike has supported his peers – whether personally or professionally – and is now harnessing his experience to mentor young people in his home town, Solihull.

Please can you tell me about yourself?

So I’m from Solihull, born here, work here, lived here all my life.

I now work with companies who have invested in our business intelligence software, helping them better utilise our solution which highlights, amongst other things, changes in their own customers buying behaviour.

Have you had a mentor in your own life?

When I was at college, there wasn’t the opportunity to have this sort of scheme in place. The closest we got to mentors were staff and tutors. But looking back, would I have gone to them as open-mindedly as mentees approach a mentor? Because with my mentees I am happy to talk to them about anything they want – I’m a soundboard to bounce ideas off.

There’s a high possibility that I have some mild form of ADHD because growing up I often found it difficult to concentrate on things and was easily distracted. Looking back to when I was at school, that wasn’t picked up, but today that would be recognised and supported and helped. There’s more responsibility to support students, and for me to help with that gives me a really strong sense of fulfilment.

Why did you choose to mentor?

When I was growing-up I was a member of the Boy’s Brigade,  and an element of that was supporting younger members of the team. I enjoyed supporting others and I think the sort of things that I’ve been exposed to growing up like the Boy’s Brigade, have given me that yearning to help people.

Plus, I was intrigued – I’m nosy, so when Ben reached out to me from my old Uni, I wanted to know more about it. I’ve since done the online training which has taught me skills and given me a clearer understanding on subjects such as safeguarding, which is knowledge I have been able to share with my team at work and help them as a result of what I’ve learnt through 1MM.

What did your mentoring sessions involve?

Something I was very conscious of in the sessions was that I need to make sure I don’t try and mirror their experiences with my own. Something I picked up in your training. Just because they’re talking about something that happened to them, and it happened to me, do they need to know that? You’ve got to control it, balance it, and that’s something I have improved on since I’ve been doing this mentoring with 1MM.

For me one of the things I have discussed with a couple of my Mentees is about going to university and  their concerns. When I started mentoring, I expected more challenging questions and conversations. In reality, the questions that I’ve been asked are really simple like, “When you go to university, do you have more homework?” or, “What do you do when you want to meet with your friends but have homework?”

To me they almost seem trivial because they seem easy. But to someone who doesn’t know, it might sway their decision as to whether they want to go to university or not.

Have you enjoyed your mentoring experience?

Yeah. It’s probably a bit obvious that I have. I’m very appreciative of it, it’s helped me personally and more importantly the students that I’ve worked with have fed back positively and benefited. One of my previous mentees for example has moved on to university and we’ve kept in touch – it sounds like he’s doing really well.

Another benefit is the networking side. There’s been a few meetings I’ve attended and it opens up a networking environment. I’ve had other mentors contact me and talk about what they offer as a business. The networking has been great – it builds up your network and the people around you.

Have you noticed the impact that mentoring has had on your mentee?

You see their confidence levels build, as you meet them for the third or fourth time and they become more comfortable with you. The conversation changes almost. They talk about coursework for 10-minutes, then talk about their family for 20-minutes to half an hour, or something they’ve had to deal with recently. That’s the beauty of a mentoring relationship, it’s not solely to talk about education, it doesn’t need to be. If they need support in another way, go for it, I’m not your teacher, I don’t work for your college, I’m happy to listen and do what I can and sometimes people just need that soundboard.

Have you learnt anything through your mentoring experience?

The ability to listen and offer support without getting personal. I’m too open, I’ve got nothing to hide, I tend to tell everyone everything! Being able to control some of that has been interesting.

I’ve been able to learn about being unbiased, and truly listening – you’re not judging. You don’t have an opinion, but you do have to talk. It teaches you – it improves your communication skills. In my role I’m engaged with multiple accounts day to day talking to people all over the world. And having the improved skill set of communication and better interaction during a conversation, is useful.

What would you say to someone who is considering mentoring with 1MM?

Do it. Absolutely get involved. I can’t think of any negative that has come out of my experience of being a mentor.