Tom Westcott, mentor at Xaverian College: Learning to listen

Tom is an independent and commercial lawyer, as well as a committed mentor in Manchester. Here, Tom discusses the importance of listening in a mentoring relationship and how this can have a positive impact on your own life.

Why did you choose to mentor?

I chose to mentor because it’s an opportunity to help people who need to get on a level playing field, for whatever reason. I’ve never mentored formally before, so to have a structured mentoring relationship is great – there’s a lot of help online to give you the guidance and support you need.

What activities do you and your mentee engage in?

I encourage them to do the talking and set the agenda, and I just listen as much as I can. We turn up and she talks for an hour, about anything that’s on her mind. It’s great that she feels like she can open up. It’s taken 6 months, but every time we meet the relationship gets stronger and the trust develops.

What’s the best thing about mentoring?

The best thing is watching their journey and being a kind of observer, part of their life. Knowing that you can help them and just be there for them. You can see so much growth in just 6 months, it’s really rewarding.

It’s very rewarding seeing these kids grow up a bit and start to show some confidence in their own ability. Watching as your mentee starts to stand a bit straighter, starts to make eye contact, it’s great.

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

I’ve been almost surprised at how quick mentoring has had an impact on my mentee. I mentioned an essay competition that she could enter and she won it straight away. We attended a prestigious awards ceremony and it had a really positive impact. There’s a lot of luck involved, like there is in life generally, but if we hadn’t had those conversations then none of that would’ve happened.

My mentee is brilliant; she just needs confidence as most kids do in their own ability. At first she thought she had nothing to offer, then all of a sudden she starts believing; that realisation that the world is her oyster, there’s nothing stopping her.

Have you learnt anything through your mentoring experience?

I’m learning to be a better listener and how to give advice – I don’t want to just sit there and say, ‘this is how I’ve done it, you should do this’, it’s not about that. You learn how to really listen to what they’re saying and how to have a conversation with them on their terms.

They’ve got to find the answers themselves – it’s their life and you’re not counselling, not teaching, not advising, just something slightly different.

Do you think mentoring has changed the way you engage with young people?

Mentoring has definitely changed the way I engage with young people. People are very quick to judge people and pigeon-hole them, but everyone has a story, their own journey that they’re going on, and how can you judge someone if you don’t know any of that at all?

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

Mentoring is an absolute no-brainer – just do it. The research is there to show that it works. It improves social mobility and takes just one hour of your month. Everyone always says they’re busy, but life is about priorities and if you can give one hour a month, which everyone can, it does make a difference.