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Lessons from supporting the youth as a mentor

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Mentorship is one of the tried and tested keys to success in all spheres of life. Some of the wealthiest people on earth like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Warren Buffet attribute their success to having a mentor. Mentorship success involves sharing personal experiences from both wins and challenges with a mentee in a way that they will learn, apply, and avoid the pitfalls that would interfere with their success journey. Mentors act as springboards and guides in life’s everyday processes.

As part of different structured mentorship programmes and mentoring within my private circles of youth, what stands out is the need to hold their hands. To walk with the youth and expose them to the realities of life as well as what is needed in acquiring skills necessary to earn a living. Most youths are leaving their parent’s nests which had them used to being protected, cared for and fended for - safety nets that ensured they are cushioned against life’s hardships and even decisions, to face real life on their own.

The reality that comes with finishing school and having to step out of this safety net tends to be harsh, and young people are often unprepared for these challenges. A constant hand to hold from an adult whose age cuts between their parents’ age and their own age is necessary as it builds a relationship of trust, believability and companionship that beats the bias of family relations which sometimes gives a sense of judgement. Eliminating factors that would make this young adult feel judged or supervised assures success in mentorship as it builds a relationship of trust, relatable role modelling and authenticity.

The struggles young people deal with stem from:

1. Fear of judgement

There is a sense of scrutiny from parents, teachers, relatives that makes young people feel doubtful of their decisions, and in some cases lack the self esteem required to know what they want and go for it. This fear is neutralized by an unbiased party who opens themselves up to share and walk the journey with zero judgement. Hence building trust and openness that allows for honest conversations and the mentor to guide through their own experiences.

2. A lack of guidance and exposure

Personal prejudice affects initial life choices in social, education and career. Being left to their own choosing, most youths end up making the wrong decisions as they do not have the broader picture in view, subjecting them to unsustainable short term options. This can be countered by offering youth mentorship and guidance by seasoned professionals.

3. Upbringing and background

Cultural influences make youth conform to a particular way of thinking and behaving. They lack access to more knowledge or role models who would paint a different picture from their own cultural experience or how they can start thinking and behaving differently. Mentorship presents such role models and stands as different examples to those that youth might be restricted to.

4. Generational Influence

According to an article by Forbes analyzing the negatives and positives of technology, mentorship stands out as an option to tackle the negatives felt by this generation. The current Gen Z has been exposed to a different, yet crippling tech-enabled upbringing. They lack the values in patience, delayed gratification, perseverance, grit, learning from adversity and all the values necessary to build mental, spiritual, and emotional maturity. The fast-paced current world has given an illusion that life magically happens, and everything is easily accessed, and when that does not happen then the world comes to a halt which can cause frustration and disappointment.

5. High expectations

High societal expectations from both the youth and the society. Society seems to value overachievers, and ambitious young people rendering youth who lack access or support to achieve certain milestones at a young age feel left behind. The career journey especially proves that true as jobs are mostly available to those who have more awards, experience, and achievements at an early age—shutting out everyone else who has potential if given the chance. On the other hand, the youth set high expectations for their career journey expecting to sprint into C.E.O status overnight, which is a false reality that ends up being a discouragement.

Through understanding the struggles in establishing one’s self in the work environment, being there not too long ago, I am able to offer mentorship that goes towards:

  1. Helping mentees reframe expectations to create more realistic goals

  2. Keeping them accountable to their goals

  3. Assisting them to weigh their options (eg. career options) and in decision making (important to note that mentors only help them to figure out what they want, through asking the right questions and sharing scenarios, they don't tell them directly)

  4. Providing a non-judgmental listening ear

  5. Through patience and understanding, provide encouragement

  6. And being a positive role model

Evidently, to counter all the challenges faced and even level the playing field and give positive exposure to the opportunities available to succeed, youth require structured mentorship.

Written by: Liz Kariuki, Communications specialist and Mentor.

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