When we decided to give back to our community to celebrate AXON UK’s 10th anniversary with our ‘AXON Giving 10’ program, having staff donate 10 hours of business hours to a charity, I was thrilled with the concept. What I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to decide what to do with my time—where could I best make a (small) difference? Healthcare charity helping a group working in a disease I was familiar with or particularly passionate about? Environmental charity to give back to this gorgeous country (UK) I now call home? Charities caring for homeless people? It all started becoming overwhelming, recognizing how many worthy groups and charities there are out there needing help, but I decided to split my time between two different groups with the same focus: mentoring.
The first group I chose is called Horse’s Mouth, an online mentoring organization whose slogan is ‘Someone knows what you need. Someone needs what you know.’ The premise is quite simple: register yourself as a mentor and provide a profile about yourself and highlight in which area(s) you want to provide guidance—life, work and/or learning. Once you are approved, you can go onto the site in your own time and respond to a list of requests for help or any direct requests, based on your profile. It’s a bit of a ‘Starter for 10’ way of charitable giving, enabling individuals to give back to others without the fear of overcommitting and underdelivering when unexpected work or family demands occur. The success of Horse’s Mouth is a testament to how many people are hungry for help in solving their problems through mentoring.
The second group I chose was part of the Women of the World (WOW) festival, which runs an annual speed mentoring session as part of a weekend-long series of events around International Women’s Day to empower and inspire women. Each mentee was asked to bring specific questions or problems to pose to their mentors. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I found was that I continue to be inspired not just by successful women on stage talking about overcoming gender bias or instigating societal changes, but also by women who have the courage to seek help and stand up for themselves with their own big issues—choosing new careers, asking for the salaries they deserve, or balancing the age-old question of pursuing a dream career vs a safe paycheck. I don’t have the answers to all of these questions (by any stretch), but it was invigorating to help other women look for new ways of addressing their challenges.
I took away 2 key lessons from my AXON Giving 10 experience:
1. I need to find a way to give back more regularly—there are too many amazing people out there doing good deeds who need help.
2. Mentoring is a much-needed and rewarding experience, in whatever guise it takes.