Last week, registrations opened for our new LGBT+ mentoring programme. We’re aiming to match junior mentees to more senior mentors; initially for ‘speed mentoring’ and in the hope people make those relationships more permanent.

The response has been brilliant so far. More than 300 people have stepped forward to say they want to either be a mentee, mentor or both.

I’ve been leading the work to develop this new programme. It’s something the Network has wanted to set up for a long time. I wanted to share my reflections on why I decided to pick up this work and why we’ve done it now.

Why mentoring?

For me, it’s personal. I was inspired to step up and lead this project because I’ve seen first hand how beneficial it can be for mentors and mentees.

Last year I started volunteering for the LGBT+ youth charity, Just Like Us. I wanted to give something back to the next generation of LGBT+ people that wasn’t just part of my day job. I have gotten to mentor a recent entrant to the Civil Service and help them on their first steps in their public sector career.

It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience.

I’ve been able to do my bit as the village elder for them. They’ve taught me lots about how being new to the the Civil Service feels when you’re joining in the middle of a pandemic.

And being a mentor has stretched my skills. I’ve been managing teams for several years now; but the skills you need to lead a team are different to those you need when coaching someone to find their own path.

It’s been a useful learning experience for me (and I hope for them too!). So useful that I think everyone should give something back and be a mentor!

Why now?

Setting up a mentoring programme is something the Network has been trying to do for years. Way back in 2011, research commissioned by the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (the predecessor to this LGBT+ Network) showed that development opportunities were lacking for LGBT+ civil servants. Until now, it wasn’t practical to try to set one up.

The pandemic has changed that. It’s changed the ways the Civil Service engages with itself. Making a mentoring programme work a few years ago would have meant worrying about where people worked as much as what experience they had. Now, the only thing we need to worry about is whether people have a good-enough internet connection for a video call.

If there was ever a moment we could all make this work, we think now is it!

It’s still going to be a big logistics exercise to make this programme work – and we’re only at the start – but we’ve got a good plan and we think that our new ways of working are going to make this great for both mentors and mentees.

Give something back. Become an LGBT+ mentor.

Give something back

So that’s why we’ve done it, and why we’ve done it now. Now it’s up to you! You should ‘give something back’ too.

Become an LGBT+ mentor. It’ll help someone else and it’ll help to develop you too.

You can register as an LGBT+ mentor in the first round of the programme now until the 31 July 2021, and find out more about the programme on our website.

John Peart is one of the vice-chairs for the Civil Service LGBT+ Network. His day job is in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where he’s currently a Bill Manager.