Nick Strong, Managing Director at HPS Investment Partners, explains why he partnered with Future First to pilot a new mentoring project, and why he thinks mentoring is hugely beneficial to students and mentors alike.
My initial connection with Future First was with Deji Davies (Managing Director at J.P. Morgan) who is a member of the trustee board. We had set up mentoring projects together previously and I was talking to him about how I wanted to get back into it. He suggested Future First as a potential partner so I got in contact to begin creating the pilot.
I first started mentoring at South Camden Community School (now Regent High School) when I worked at Rothschild & Co. Deji and I began working closely with some of the most disadvantaged students and then broadened into other projects like helping students with their Young Enterprise business ideas. As Rothschild became more involved in helping the community and the school, we began to work together and the mentoring project took on a broader reach. When I left Rothschild I went onto Intermediate Capital Group and they had a few projects going on there that I got involved in; helping young people with CV writing, preparing for interviews etc. Now that I’m at HPS, I thought it would be a good time to pilot a new mentoring scheme with Future First.
Mentoring is incredibly valuable for both the mentor and the mentee. Often we think about it being all for the mentee but for mentors, who are often under pressure in their day-to-day jobs, it can give them some perspective when they pump the brakes a little bit and see the bigger picture during their time mentoring. I’ve personally found that coming up for air and being aware of other people’s situations, and often how fortunate we are with the opportunities we’ve been given, has given me perspective to rethink, slow down and even make better decisions when I return to work.
The other obvious benefit of mentoring is for the mentees who gain much needed additional support and a strong role model if they don’t already have one within their own home or school lives. There’s always a need for positive role models, and often schools do a really good job of providing that, but it can be helpful to have role models away from school, particularly if the students are thinking about careers and life after school which can all be a little daunting at that age.
As a mentor it’s great to help young people with practical things like CV writing, interview skills and explaining how businesses operate. Just as important are the smaller things such as tips on how to greet people professionally, the importance of eye contact and advice on what to wear for interviews; things we probably take as second nature but that are not always clear for some of these young people. Often, some of them just need a bit of guidance and confidence on how to go about achieving their dreams when they think they’re not good enough. Watching their confidence and self-esteem grow over the mentoring period is what it’s all about.
I think businesses really do want to be involved in helping young people too and are aware of the corporate responsibility they have to the community and people around them, especially when it comes to environmental, social and governmental issues. Businesses are beginning to take their responsibility more seriously which can only be a good thing because the reality is that we’ve not all been given the same opportunities. People from more disadvantaged backgrounds sometimes need help and opportunities to grow and we’re all responsible for that, especially corporate organisations that have the budgets, manpower and community reach.
Mentoring is beneficial for businesses too. It increases employee wellbeing and job satisfaction but it’s also great for networking and finding new talent through internships and work placements which can even lead to full time employment. Identifying gifted individuals that just needed to be nurtured by those able to help can drive diversity and bring new life to businesses.
The mentoring project we’re piloting with Future First is simple: we want to find schools in areas that have less opportunity but have strong alumni networks and train those alumni to become mentors. We want former students who are still in contact with their schools, those with an attachment to their old school and a passion to help the next generation of students. Through the mentoring project they will not only give practical advice to the current students but also talk them through their own career progression; how they got to where they are and what their day to day working life is like. This will show the current students the potential opportunities that await them once they’ve finished school.
We’re piloting this project in a couple of schools but my hope for the future is that it turns into a much bigger project in lots of schools. Beyond that, we could create links to businesses through the alumni networks and have former students set up mentoring projects in their own industries.
Working with Future First has been a hugely positive experience so far and I’m excited about what we can achieve together. It’s great to see institutions like Future First that are reaching into the community to help people find opportunities and acting as a conduit for corporate organisations to deliver on their responsibilities to help. There is a huge amount of scope for the Future First mentoring project and I’m very excited to see where it goes!