“Five lessons I learnt through mentoring”

Kajal is one of our local heroes – she tells us here all about her experience of being a mentor.

As I come to the end of my year-long mentoring journey, I have been reflecting on the experience as a whole. At the start of the process, I was unsure what to expect but was excited to be involved. While the training sessions were incredibly useful (I particularly enjoyed the session on deep-listening), very little can beat the lessons learnt through practical experience. Below are five lessons I learnt through the mentoring process that I hope will help you.

1: Less is more

As the year of the mentoring process was ahead of me, it at times felt daunting – what if our sessions became monotonous? How could I ensure that I made the sessions engaging enough to maintain my mentee’s interest?  These initial concerns fell by the wayside as I spent more time with my mentee. Often the sessions where we were doing simple things, like visiting the local cafe, led to meaningful and memorable engagement. My mentee has an incredible sense of humour and imagination, and working with that helped create a good rapport between us. 

2: Seeing the world through a child’s eyes

As you go about adulting (I’m still not sure if I’ve got adulting worked out…) it is easy to get caught up with day-to-day concerns that can zap the magic out of life. However spending time with my mentee, even the smallest of things that we would notice during our sessions sparked interesting conversations and insights. It was incredibly refreshing seeing the world through my mentee’s eyes and her excitement for life is contagious.

3: Consistency is key

The mentoring programme is designed to allow you to build up a trusting relationship with your mentee. Initial sessions with my mentee were sometimes quieter or stilted as we both learnt about each other. As the months went on, being a constant in my mentee’s life (and vice versa) helped build trust and familiarity. Sometimes it was not always possible to meet every week. For these instances, scheduling 10-15 minute phone calls helped maintain that relationship when we were unable to meet in person and allowed my mentee to share how their week had been or any concerns they had. 

4: Embrace the silences

My mentee and I would chat about our respective weeks as we travelled to our planned activity. Depending on where we were going, sometimes we would finish talking about our week and there would be silence. Initially I felt the need to fill this silence with chatter usually by playing games such as ‘‘I spy’. However as our sessions progressed, these silences allowed my mentee the opportunity to open up about anything that was on their mind. I learnt that creating or embracing silence encouraged my mentee to use that as a moment to open up. 

5. Go with the flow

Some sessions required a fair amount of planning especially if we were travelling further than the local area. I found going with the flow for sessions in the local area rather than meticulously planning beneficial as there was usually something interesting going on in the local area or park for my mentee to get involved in. Occasionally an activity you agreed with your mentee the week before and subsequently planned doesn’t quite work out. Perhaps the British weather doesn’t work in your favour, or your mentee is simply not in the mood – going with the flow helped me make the best of the situation. 

The journey has been full of wonder, excitement and laughter, and has had a great (in both meanings of the word) impact on my life and me as a person. I will miss my mentee when the time comes to part ways, but be thankful for the time we shared and the lessons learnt.

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