When you’re a busy mum in a full-time role, how on earth do you find time to volunteer? Suzanne Wright discovered the Beacon Foundation gives her the flexibility and support to make a difference in an area she’s passionate about – without leaving her desk.
When I re-joined Accenture in 2017, I was keen to participate in volunteering. I knew that Accenture backs us to give our time to worthy causes – but I didn’t know where to start.
Fortunately, Accenture realises how busy everyone is, so we’ve got a portal where all the leg work is done for you. I found a wide range of volunteering opportunities. All I had to do was browse, choose and sign up.
I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find something that fit my schedule. My calendar is jam packed and unpredictable – plus I have a couple of kids. I didn’t think I could manage anything that required travel or committing to a regular gig.
So, I was excited to discover heaps of volunteering opportunities that were really flexible and can be done online.
The one I chose was the Beacon Foundation’s MyRoad program, which provides industry mentors for Year 10 kids (the same age as my younger son) in rural and remote communities. The idea is to broaden teenage horizons by connecting students online with industry role models from different jobs and industries.
Many of these kids don’t know a single person who works in the corporate world. The mentoring gives them a glimpse into the changing world of work, helps them to understand the possible career paths available to them – and (hopefully) inspires them to pursue interesting careers they might otherwise never have considered.
Beacon was looking for role models to work with Year 10 girls and expand their thinking on the careers available to women. I thought it was a fantastic chance to really make a difference in someone’s life.
Apart from finding a volunteering role I truly cared about, the best thing was the sessions only ran for two-hours, so mentoring wasn’t going to take up a whole day of my work life. And I could pick and choose times that suited me.
For the last two years, I’ve been doing a session every couple of months. There’s no regular commitment. Each time, you work with a different school and different kids. You just register for times that fit your schedule – and away you go.
In each session, I work with three or four girls through a Zoom meeting. It’s a bit like Skype. I can see them on screen – and they can see me.
I’ve been absolutely blown away by how well the mentoring is organised. It’s all scripted – and the materials are high quality and easy to follow. You’re given two hours of training and a detailed run sheet, so you’re never stuck for a question. Beacon offers lots of suggestions for prompting a conversation or getting responses.
They also provide short, sharp, excellent videos, which I play for the girls – giving me time to think about where to take the conversation next.
When I open a session, the first thing I do is introduce myself and tell the girls the journey I took from when I was their age through to now. And then we talk about them. What are they interested in? Gradually we build up a picture of each girl, which I use to facilitate the conversation about possible careers.
At first, they’re usually distracted by the technology, fiddling with the microphone and nudging each other. But by the end, you build this great rapport, and they are physically leaning in, and chatting and laughing.
The feedback is always very rewarding. One of the girls from my last session said: “The most important thing I learnt from my mentor today was how to be more confident in front of people who I work with.”
Every time I do a session, I say to myself: “I must schedule more.”
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