Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Why Mentor?

During my second year at University, I signed up to a “student as mentor” program where undergraduates were paired with secondary school pupils to “mentor” them through to the end of their GCSE. I was young, I was curious, I was full of energy and feeling adventurous. So when I saw an advert calling for student mentors, it was something new to try. After the introductory training, off I went one Wednesday afternoon to my first meet-up with my assigned 16 yr old teenager. As she walked into the school library, I sensed our levels of excitement were not at par. Then it dawned on me - this was serious business. This young girl genuinely needed guidance, a sense of direction, a friend to talk to, someone to fill in the blanks.
Over the academic year, our mentor – mentee relationship developed and we had established a comfortable bond. Sadly, her family migrated to Australia after her GCSE’s and I’ve lost contact. If I’d known about measuring impact, I would have made more of an effort to keep in touch. From the experience I now know better. 

So who is a mentor? The British Oxford dictionary describes a mentor simply as an experienced and trusted advisor. At some point is everyone’s life we come across experienced trusted advisors who influence certain decisions we make in one way or another leaving a positive impact. This encounter may have been informal but the benefit of having a mentor to support and encourage the personal growth of a mentee has led to an increase in formal mentor- mentee programs. The end result often being a boost in confidence and self belief of a young person to maximise their potential. Like many experiences, there is always something to be learned from all involved and the end result works both ways.

Becoming a mentor however is more than just a good will gesture from an advisor.  It requires the sincere desire of an individual to be involved with and help shape the future of another.  Becoming a mentor is a responsibility and requires commitment, trust, an open mind, a listening ear, a positive attitude and empathy. Becoming a mentor is not a parental role nor is it a teacher - student relationship. It’s not about being an adult looking out for a child. Becoming a mentor is about one individual bringing out the best in another. It’s a mutualistic relationship and one to be enjoyed by both parties.

Most experienced professionals were once in the “lost” place of a young person. Times are changing and challenges on young people continue to mount. In these circumstances it is important that mentoring is embraced by all and experienced professionals should make more of an effort to inspire a generation by forming ties with mentees.

I may have been a novice when I signed up to the mentorship program but by the end, I had matured in my ability and self confidence and discovered a lot more about myself. I went in as a guide and we both came away with a better sense of direction. 

There is no greater feeling of fulfilment than knowing you have made a positive impact in the life of another. Becoming a mentor is a rewarding journey and one to be experienced.

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