Today is #NationalMentoringDay so what better time to celebrate the positive benefits that mentoring brings? We spoke to Amy Smith, General Manager of Spare Tyre about what taking part in our mentoring programme meant to her and the impact it had on her confidence and career after becoming a new parent.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What made you apply for the mentoring programme and what did you hope to get from it?
I was the Administrator at Soho Theatre when I met my mentor via the UK Theatre programme - I am now General Manager at Spare Tyre.
I had come back from maternity leave feeling a bit lost – really common for new parents I think. Some days I’d feel incredibly together and ambitious about my career, and some days I’d just want to hide in my house with my baby and never go to work again. I thought about all kinds of things – taking work in the local library, moving to a new town, trying to get a promotion, retraining as a childminder – all the conflicting thoughts that run through your head when you’re juggling kids and a job and wondering if you’re doing the right thing.
I was keen to get advice from another woman with children working in theatre. I wanted a confidence boost, and some advice on all the new battles ahead.
Who were you matched with and why?
I was matched with Imogen Kinchin, Senior Producer at the Lyric Hammersmith. She was also recently back from maternity leave, but with three children, and working full-time.
How did having a mentor help you achieve your goals?
I was incredibly lucky to have been matched with Imogen. She was a really transformative mentor for me. We met about once a month for six months, over at the Lyric for an hour on my days off. We’d sit in the café and have a coffee, and obviously everything we talked about was in strict confidence. Imogen’s a great listener, and very good at nudging you towards a clearer take on any given situation. Our sessions became more structured as I gained confidence and it became clear I wanted to take a step up the career ladder. We’d review job descriptions for advertised roles, and she’d encourage me to apply for full-time roles with an upfront request to work part-time – something that wouldn’t have even occurred to me before we met. But if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?
I think Imogen was good at nurturing a different kind of confidence in me. I think my confidence before had been based on perfectionism, which isn’t a viable basis for confidence as a) you become a parent, with all the chaos that comes with that and b) you move through your career, when you’re less and less likely ever to reach the end of the to do list. A new, stronger basis for me is built on integrity and pragmatism.
What’s your next step?
After a really happy time at Spare Tyre, I’ll start at the Unicorn as their General Manager in the New Year. My time at Spare Tyre has been so important to me; the confidence that Imogen instilled in me had the chance to take root here in a really supportive environment.
What advice would you offer anyone thinking about applying for a mentoring scheme?
For the mentor, I guess you’d have to ask Imogen! I’d guess that stepping out of manager mode must be tough – I think Imogen had had some training which supported her aptitude for this kind of work.
For the mentee, just… apply today. Even if you’re not sure you’re a ‘case’ for it, I’d highly recommend it as a chance to sort out your thoughts.
If you are a UK Theatre member and would like to become a mentor or mentee, find out more here.
You can read the findings of our Theatre Workforce Review here, which will help us to work with employers, and government, to ensure we have the right skills and expertise in place for our industry to thrive.