ScreenSkills is the industry-led skills body for the UK’s screen based creative industries. They specialise in the training and development of skills needed for individuals to compete in these industries and have developed a mentoring programme which encourages industry specialists and those further along in their careers to offer insight and wisdom to those just starting out. We spoke with Mentoring Manager Jane Saunders about the success of the mentoring programme and how easy it is to get involved.

Why is it important for you to provide opportunities for mentees and mentors at all stages in their careers?

We are keen to debunk the myth that mentors must be older and at the end of their careers in order to give something back to mentees. Equally, people often assume that all mentees are young and at entry level. Mentoring is not just for learning the basics for entering the industry, though this can be useful for many. It can also be of value to mid-level professionals who are at a crossroads in their career or who want to progress, by giving them the opportunity to focus on their development or by helping them with areas such as confidence and assertiveness, speaking up or leadership.

Mentoring is not just for learning the basics for entering the industry.

To provide opportunities to a broader spectrum of mentees, we have focussed some of our ‘matching’ on those who are returning to work, perhaps after parental leave, illness or caring duties. We also encourage sign-up by people who are already working in the industry and are at an early stage of their career to understand they can be mentors and to recognise that they have a wealth of knowledge to give to those trying to break into the industry.

What do you see as being the specific benefits of this scheme for potential mentees?

Mentoring can help new and established screen professionals to extend their network, set and achieve goals, improve their interpersonal skills, and receive feedback. Mentoring can also take place remotely, so mentees and mentors who are not able to travel or who have been matched with someone in a different part of the country have the option to communicate with each other on the phone, online or by video call. Location shouldn’t be a barrier to mentoring or indeed to finding a way into the industry.

Director/Producer Abdullai Adejumo with his mentor, Director/Producer Steve Kelly

Similarly, what do you see as being the specific benefits of this scheme for potential mentors?

Benefits reported by mentors include seeing things from another’s perspective, boosting job satisfaction, developing as a leader or a manager and a sense of giving back. More generally, mentoring helps to break down barriers and encourage a more diverse and equal workforce.

How are mentees matched to mentors?

Mentees are asked to create a ScreenSkills profile before completing a short application form. In this they will be asked to fill out information relating to their sector; the skills, knowledge and expertise they would like to gain; and location and communication preferences. Mentees will also get the opportunity to upload either a short essay or short video outlining why they would like to take part in mentoring and their passion for the screen industries. This allows for more bespoke matching.

Once they are matched, mentors and mentees are briefed on the time commitment involved, what is expected of them, how to structure meetings and how ScreenSkills can help throughout the partnership. They are then introduced to their mentor and encouraged to have an initial conversation to see if it’s a good match.

What are your favourite examples of mentor/mentee partnerships that have proven successful?

Completely by chance, we paired an emerging writer with a mentor who she already followed on Twitter and admired. There are also two model makers who were paired and are collaborating well together. Often, mentees are paired with a mentor working in another sector to them, and this can be just as rewarding an experience. In these cases, it is a real pleasure to hear of mentees’ personal development as well as their career growth.

Location shouldn’t be a barrier to mentoring or indeed to finding a way into the industry.

Mentors have also spoken passionately about their experiences – one mentor was delighted to unexpectedly improve their digital skills from a tech savvy mentee who was more familiar with the language and new practices in that area.

How can people sign up to be mentors/mentees?

We are looking for mentees and mentors at every level of UK film, television, VFX, animation and games. Firstly, create a ScreenSkills profile. Secondly, register as a mentor or mentee and select ‘become a mentor’ or ‘find a mentor’. This will take you to a form where you can detail your experience and mentoring preferences e.g., sector or location. Finally, we can also be contacted at [email protected] with any queries.

If you would like to apply to be a mentor or mentee with ScreenSkills, click here for all the information.

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