Many of us treasure memories of a key person, event or simply a ‘thing’ that caused us to take a particular path in our working or personal lives.
Someone or something igniting a spark, generating enthusiasm and energy, taking us in a direction that we may not have thought possible.
When talking about influential people, the catch-all term is ‘mentor’ – an experienced and trusted adviser. Whether it be a teacher, family member, colleague or a chance meeting, the result can be life changing and the start of something special.
That’s why giving the gift of time, passing on experience and knowledge, is important and even more so for people who don’t have easy access or links to a particular profession – in my own case print and broadcast journalism.
As a child growing up in a Birmingham working class community, I didn’t know anyone who wrote for a living or worked in broadcasting. Libraries were a place to escape, somewhere to lose yourself in books and marvel at the sea of titles and author names. A library ticket was a key to another world, a sanctuary but at the same time a special place to visit.
Later on when we moved to a house right opposite a library, I got to know some of the people there who were always helpful and often shared their own favourite books. They didn’t call themselves ‘mentors’ but that is exactly what they were, fostering a love of words and writing.
Knowing where you want to go is one thing but getting there is quite another and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of those inspirational people who have helped along the way.
Over the years I’ve often been approached about giving advice to young people who are interested in TV production or print journalism careers
Having already contributed to a magazine aimed at young people in the care system, this gave an ideal opportunity to share my work experience with some of them too, their glimpse into the world of print and broadcasting.
At the time I was working on a demanding TV series which meant long unpredictable hours with lots of travel, so was reluctant to promise something that would inevitably be subject to last minute changes – they had already gone through enough of that in their lives.
In the end it was a case of reaching out to other industry contacts to arrange studio/location visits while offering advice where possible. After leaving care, some of them went on to take part in news and documentary programmes shedding a light on their real life stories.
It was a stark reminder that just because you can’t always do a lot it doesn’t mean that you should do nothing. At the same time it’s important to only promise what you can deliver.
Giving even a small bit of time isn’t just about ‘do gooding’ to use that perjorative term. It is about passing on knowledge and helping to open doors for people who might otherwise not get a look in.
Whether you use the terms ‘mentor’, ‘adviser’ or ‘career buddy’, it’s really about being dependable, willing to share your experiences both good and bad, and appreciating the needs of the person seeking advice. A healthy sense of humour always comes in handy too!
On the subject of humour, former GB gymnast and brilliant performance poet, Sally Crabtree, (aka the ‘Poetry Postie’), shares her own childhood inspiration – the Beano comic! – and how it has led to a fantastic work collaboration.
‘I loved reading books as a child – anything from children’s classics to modern fiction. But in truth, what filled me with the most excitement was my Beano comic which was delivered every week through the letterbox! I can remember being at the top of the stairs having heard it land on the mat and the feeling of utter happiness and excitement as I rushed down to pick it up. Little did I know that I would be working with Beano Cartoonists Nick and Fran Brennan from Cartoonfun later in life, collaborating with them to create our very own comic inspired by the ‘Parcel Pets’ – who are the mascots of my Poetry Postie project. You can find out more about it all here www.thepostalserviceofhappiness.com ‘