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Maria Hammond: Nurturing a career path

Maria Hammond is a local authority planner. 


Nurture: “care that is given to someone while they are growing and developing”.


Growing and developing with the care and support of a mentor is what I have been doing over the last six months.

The RTPI Nurture mentoring programme is for mid-career planners looking to advance their career. After 15 years in planning and five of those in my current role, I certainly feel at a mid-career point and applied for the programme as I was unsure what exactly I was at the mid-point of.

A peer-to-peer meeting of mentees kicked things off. The mentoring purposes and process were explained to us with advice on how to get the most out of it, before mentees shared their hopes and aims for the programme. Some had clear ideas on their career path and what they wanted to achieve. Others, like me, were just hoping to regain a sense of direction and formulate a plan for the future.

The advice to mentees was clear: this was our opportunity and it was our responsibility to get what we wanted out of it.

During the first of six monthly meetings, my mentor and I began get to know each other, agreed on our own objectives and how we’d manage the process. My objective was “To develop a plan that gives me a sense of direction to work towards the next step in my career.”.

To work towards that, we defined what I enjoy about being a planner, reviewed job descriptions, updated my CV, practiced interview questions and freshened up my professional development plan. My mentor was a critical friend; someone to challenge my thoughts and assumptions and take the blinkers off to see the bigger picture.

Whilst the onus is on the mentee to set the agenda and put the work in to achieve your objectives, this never felt like a burden. Having a sense of accountability to my mentor gave me the drive to research and reflect between sessions and the more effort I put in, the more reward I got out. I soon began to feel invigorated about career progression in a way I haven’t for far too long.

As a result, I developed the sense of direction I was hoping for and increased confidence to pursue it. One crucial question arose: what is Plan B if I don’t take that direction? That led to exploration of different avenues, many of which I had never thought of or had exposure to. Not only do I have a sense of direction now, I have many more too!

Getting perspective from someone who did not see my day-to-day work helped bolster my self-belief. This detachment from the workplace adds value to anything a manager or tutor can offer and is beneficial personally, as well as professionally. 

My mentor and I  have never crossed paths professionally nor met in person; all our meetings took place on Teams. It is testament to their people management and natural intuition that they got to understand me so well and offer me so much.  Credit to the programme leaders for putting us together; I couldn’t have asked for a better match.

Mentoring offers mentees benefits in terms of:

  • Motivating and energising your career or professional development plan
  • Challenging thoughts and assumptions
  • Getting a fresh perspective
  • Broadening your horizons
  • Building confidence

I also believe it was a mutually rewarding experience and we intend to stay in touch.

I would encourage anyone else to participate in an RTPI mentoring programme at the next opportunity to grow and develop as I have. 

Since the programme formally ended I find myself in moments of self-doubt and uncertainty asking: ‘what would my mentor say?’. They will always be the angel on my shoulder nurturing me to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself.

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