How mentoring can help your career

Mentoring can be a great way to develop your career. Learning from experience, sharing problems in a neutral environment and bouncing ideas around are just some of the benefits of having a mentor. But it’s also a two-way street and taking time out to help others can be equally rewarding, according to Derby alumnus Adam Buss.

Adam Buss having an interview with a student

Adam left university in 2001 with a Film and Theatre degree and went into stand-up comedy. In the same year he was a finalist in the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition alongside Jimmy Carr, John Bishop and Miles Jupp. Adam is now Chief Executive of QUAD, a creative hub in Derby that connects people and businesses to art and film.

He’s also a firm believer in mentoring, so we asked him to share his thoughts.

"What do Larry Page, Steve Jobs and yours truly have in common? We’ve all received guidance from mentors. No matter who you are, where you’ve come from, or what you have achieved, a good mentor is an invaluable asset in business" – Richard Branson

What are the benefits of being mentored? And mentoring others?

The benefits are countless and difficult to measure but have been absolutely vital to my career development.

Specific benefits I have seen myself include a greater sense of self-awareness both of strengths and weaknesses, a wider network to call upon for support, a neutral person to discuss challenging situations with in a non-judgemental way and – most importantly of all for me – the chance to learn from other’s experience, successes and, just as crucially, mistakes.

On the flip side mentoring others helps you gain an insight into the challenges others face and how your experiences can benefit the wider community, something which reflects back positively on your own career. 

How has mentoring helped shape your career?

I have had mentors (currently four) now for around five years and since that time I have always sought their advice at key points of my career, such as when I became Chief Executive of QUAD, my first overall strategic lead role.

It was vital for me to be able to talk to people who had faced significant success and just as many challenges.

It’s never been the case that they have given me a solution in its entirety but they have been able to give me suggestions on approaches, new contacts and ways of unlocking my thought processes so I don’t live in my own echo chamber.

How do you find a suitable mentor?

Firstly you need to identify why you want a mentor and what you want to get out of it.

Everyone you will consider is likely to be very busy so you need to consider how much time you expect to spend with them and how best to facilitate this within your own role. Make sure you discuss it with your employer so you can factor meetings into your schedule.

Once you have decided on what you are looking for then you need to put yourself in situations where you can listen to people speak and hear their thoughts on work/life to find someone who matches your ideal criteria.

Also ask as many people you respect in the world of work who can advise on people they may know who fit your criteria. Then ask and be clear what you are asking for, be prepared to be turned down and don’t take it personally, but persist and you will find someone.

If you could, what career advice would you give your younger self?

Be prepared to be scared at points but recognise that it is at these points in your career you will learn the most and also that you feel the way you do because you care. 

What’s been going on at QUAD recently? What are you excited about?

As always lots! Our current exhibition Leisureland Golf, a contemporary art crazy golf course, has proved very popular with all parts of the community. Thought provoking and fun, something we always strive for.

Our outdoor screening season is in full flow and we have already, only half way through the season, increased audiences by over 55% and we are very proud to be hosting events across the country from Sussex to Northumberland, wherever we go taking the message that Derby is a great place to live, work and study.

As we move forward I am excited by the increasing opportunities of working more closely with the University of Derby and our other cultural partners in the city. Partnerships are key to success in my opinion and all of us are committed to making Derby an even better place to be.