Career Accelerator and Cisco – Empowering the Next Generation of LGBT+ Talent
We’ve been working with Career Accelerator, an education organisation helping young people from low income and diverse backgrounds prepare for careers in the digital sector, for two years now. And last year we extended the programme to have our first LGBT+ cohort. We’re proud to share this blog by Career Accelerator with you.
As the end of 2021 drew near, so did the final stages of Career Accelerator’s LGBT+ Youth Mentoring Programme with our corporate partner Cisco.
Last year Career Accelerator was delighted to grow our existing partnership with Cisco. Career Accelerator has been working with Cisco for 2 years. In this time, we have successfully run 3 programmes in which a number of dedicated Cisco employees have mentored working class young people – with a focus on female students and students of colour – to prepare for careers in the modern economy.
More recently, Cisco volunteers from the LGBT+ diversity network, Pride, have volunteered their time to mentor on Career Accelerator’s LGBT+ Youth Mentoring Programme. The programme matches young LGBT+ people at various stages of their career development, including studying, job-searching and working, with established LGBT+ and LGBT+ ally professionals in relevant industries and roles. They work towards a number of goals, including developing ambitious career goals, building an LGBT+ network, and navigating being a young LGBT+ person finding and staying in employment.
Mayur and Rebecca from Career Accelerator recently caught up with some Cisco mentors and their mentees. We wanted to share how the programme has been going in this blog.
Firstly, we asked mentors and mentees why they applied for the programme. The mentees talked about how they wanted support for transition points in their lives, both personal and professional. For instance, one mentee has recently migrated to the UK from abroad, and they were hoping to be mentored by someone who had a similar experience and could share their insights. Importantly, mentees talked about wanting to hear from someone who is openly LGBT+ at work, both to boost their confidence and to understand how this might impact their working life.
Mentors also talked about how their personal experiences made them want to volunteer their time to be a mentor. As LGBT+ individuals, they said their experiences had led them to want to support others going through the same, including in dealing with some of the challenges caused when a workplace or employer is not inclusive. Mentors also talked about the importance of using their skills to support others, trying something new and building on past mentoring/teaching experiences.
Mentees then went on to share their perception of the challenges facing young LGBT+ people who are starting their careers. One theme which was particularly important was self-acceptance. Mentees talked about the difficulty many young LGBT+ people experience in accepting themselves due to societal pressures, stereotypes and expectations, as well as how specific personal circumstances might exacerbate these. These challenges might impact someone’s performance at work, for instance by impacting self-esteem and confidence, as well as leading to issues with wellbeing. The same mentees who identified these challenges in self-acceptance also highlighted one method to counter these – meeting LGBT+ role models. This contributed to mentees’ belief that mentors being part of the LGBT+ community was of primary importance, as it enabled them to give advice based on their shared experiences. Mentoring was not identified as the only opportunity for this, as events specifically for LGBT+ young people are also important, such as the Pink News Futures conference.
We also wanted to find out more about what mentors got from the experience. One of the themes that emerged was that mentors enjoyed finding out about the things that they had in common with their mentee, including in areas that they were not expecting. This included discussions about stress, mental health and balancing personal challenges alongside working. Mentors mentioned that this allowed them to build empathy and provide practical and useful advice based on their own experiences. Another positive from the mentor’s perspective was the relationship that they built with their mentee, which certain mentors highlighted as a significant benefit of doing the programme. Mentors expressed some surprise that they had been able to build such a strong bond with their mentee. They said that this helped boost their confidence, especially in a pandemic where it was harder to meet and build relationships with new people.
We’ve been thrilled to see that many pairs of mentors and mentees are still in touch and having their sessions even after the programme has ended – a real testament to the great support Cisco mentors have provided their mentees over the 3 months. We can’t wait to continue our work with Cisco in 2022 and are glad our young people across schools and in the LGBT+ community get to learn and seek support from such brilliant inspiring business mentors.