Virtual Matching

The application window for the Cityparents Annual Matching Scheme, part of our year-round Mentoring Programme, is now open. Last year was the first time that we had a number of virtual partnerships. As we launch the Programme during this period of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, mentoring will initially take place virtually in a variety of ways, including by phone, Skype or Zoom. In some cases these arrangements will continue once the current restrictions are lifted.  Read on to hear more about the advantages of a virtual mentoring partnership, as well as for some tips on how to manage the challenges.

The Cityparents Matching Scheme connects people with a mentor or mentee outside of their organisation, or even sector. This is hugely beneficial for participants for several reasons. It enables participants to expand their networks, broaden their horizons and trust in the confidential and impartial nature of the partnership.  One of our valued mentors Martin Insley, Executive Director at IHS Markit, recently set out his thoughts on the benefits of virtual mentoring at this time: 

“Wellbeing is a big part of getting through the current situation, having a human connection, even virtually, is a useful tool to share ideas and thoughts with, or even just vent or get an outside perspective. Now, more than ever, having a support network is critical to building a constructive work-life balance.”

As Martin points out, human connection is particularly important as we adapt to events outside of our control. Despite the many and varied challenges that we are facing during lockdown conditions, now could be the perfect opportunity to invest some time in our own personal development and career growth. Starting a new mentoring partnership, or even continuing an existing one, can help us to slow down, take stock and re-focus. Carving out some time to reflect has perhaps never seemed more important.

The requirement for many to work remotely has required flexibility and adaptability from all parties. We usually ask mentoring partners to commit to 6 one hour sessions during the year, but if an initial series of half hour conversations would work better, then we recommend working out what suits you both. Shorter, more frequent sessions might be just what is needed at this unusual time, and possibly even beyond. As with any mentoring relationship, clear communication is key to working out a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Benefits of a Virtual Mentoring Partnership

There are of course challenges associated with building relationships and conducting meetings remotely. Perceived wisdom holds that effective connections are made more quickly when people find themselves face to face. Whilst it is true that it can be quicker to establish chemistry this way, it is also possible to benefit from important conversations that take place via video, as well as by phone. In some ways, if certain “Do’s and Don’ts” are embraced, the relationship can be all the more effective than ‘in person’ meet ups. If the conditions are right, a home setting can make the mentee feel at ease, away from other distractions and fully focused on the conversation.

As a coach I approach each type of meeting with a slightly different mindset, and I enjoy how each medium can present different challenges to overcome, as well as benefits to appreciate.  To follow are some general tips to bear in mind when mentoring via a medium other than face to face.

Keep timings to an hour, or even less. Be sure to agree these up front, and stick to them.

Share some ‘housekeeping’ points at the start of the session. Address the potential need to signal to each other if a break is needed for any reason at all. This could include the need to pause, reflect and slow down, especially if the experience feels more intense than in person. 

Work out what to do in case of technical issues. What is your Plan B?

As with meetings in person, both participants need to establish their boundaries and mentees need to lead with what they are hoping to get out of the time together.

As many people are rapidly learning, making connections remotely can not only save time, but also provide valuable support and produce results. Above all else, it is the ideal opportunity to create some time to think with another professional who is keen to share their experiences, and to support others through the Cityparents Mentoring Scheme.


The Cityparents Spring 2020 cohort formally launched with ‘The Power of Mentoring’ live webinar, hosted by Executive Coach and Cityparents Mentoring Programme Adviser Sarah Tennant and Cityparents and Cityworks Director Helen Beedham. 

The Application Window for the Spring 2020 cohort runs from Monday 4th May to Friday 15th May inclusive. Please visit this page for registration and application information. 

Participants will be informed if they have been successfully matched by 19th June and our ‘Getting Started’ Mentoring Surgery will take place on 7th July. 

For any questions at all regarding the Scheme before the application window opens please contact Louisa. For any queries on the matching process and for any mentoring related enquiries, please contact Sarah.


About Sarah Tennant, Accredited Executive Coach, Facilitator and Cityparents Mentoring Programme Adviser:

Sarah established SLT Executive Coaching in 2017 and works across industries with individuals and teams. She specialises in coaching people through career transition points such as parental leave, returning following a career break, outplacement and career change. She thrives on helping people and organisations manage change and build resilience, and is a strong advocate for working cultures that support people to develop their careers at all stages of their lives.



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