Property Council Mentorship Programme

by Kara Heald, Senior Landscape Architect

Through my early career I had gained the benefits of both informal and formal mentorship.  This came informally through senior colleagues and managers with whom I had developed a positive relationship both professionally and personally.  These relationships developed without there ever being mention of mentorship, but in hindsight those colleagues and managers filled the role of a mentor, giving valuable support, advice and encouragement.  This struck me recently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, when in relation to mentoring she writes ‘The strongest relationships often spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides’.

In an informal capacity I also realise that I have gained, and hopefully given, mentoring through peers.  Having open discussions with those at the same career stage as you gives the opportunity for current and relevant advice.

In a formal capacity, the process of becoming a Chartered Landscape Architect in the UK requires the arrangement of a formal mentoring role with a chartered member of the institute.  Over the two years that I studied to gain chartership, this mentor assisted in setting goals, providing advice and technical knowledge with the goal of furthering my career.  On my part I had to be organised, proactive, and committed to my professional development.  These were skills which set me up well for the Property Council mentorship programme.

Each year the Property Council runs a mentorship programme which pairs experienced mentors with mentees in the property industry and allied professions.  The programme seeks to not only link mentees with their own mentor but to provide access as a group  so that participants have the opportunity to meet other professionals across a number of disciplines.

As a landscape architect, I took time to consider my application to the programme quite carefully, as I had only experienced formal mentorship from another landscape architect previously.  I was also uncertain how a designer would sit within the professions more typically associated with the Property Council, such as planning and property development.  However following support from Hansen Partnership and speaking directly with the Property Council it became clearer that the programme could offer opportunities beyond a participant’s profession, and after a successful application I had the valuable experience of participating in the 2017 mentorship programme.

Aspirations such as gaining contacts in related disciplines and developing a network of professionals to potentially work with into the future were what I set out in to the programme with. However my experience through the year gave me something quite different.

The 2017 programme provided a series of events for all the participants to meet, including ‘speed networking’, quiz nights, breakfasts and a race around Melbourne.  The events were very valuable to meet other professionals and offered an opportunity to network across disciplines which realised some of my aspirations from the outset of the programme.  Participants from the professions of architecture, engineering, planning, development management, building services and banking were represented in the program.

However the most valuable part of the programme from my perspective was the development of my mentor / mentee relationship.  My mentor came from a very different background as a lawyer but our difference in profession was no barrier and in fact gave an interesting perspective on our discussions.  As encouraged by the Property Council I, as a mentee, was responsible for setting up meetings and generating the topics for discussion while the mentor assisted with advice and setting goals.  Getting together on a monthly basis gave me a regular structure and adequate time to test out advice and see how I could progress with the goals we had set.

Having a formal professional relationship outside of normal life and work became of great value, in particular having a female mentor who was able to provide guidance on professional development and the perspective of a female in the property industry. Again in Sandberg’s book, she writes “Most people in the position to mentor are quite adept at problem solving.  Give them a problem to solve”.  This problem solving was a key part of the relationship that I developed with my mentor, whether that being as specific as to how to approach a performance review or as broad as how to develop my career in the coming years.

While the formal Property Council programme ran for a year, it has provided me with a mentor / mentee relationship which will extend in to the future along the opportunity to connect to other mentors in the programme.  Based on the positive outcomes of my year in the programme along with the ongoing connection with the Property Council I would certainly recommend it for other landscape architects or those in allied professions.

Kara Heald is a Senior Landscape Architect at Hansen Partnership.