The Power Of Mentorship
My co-worker often gives the most concise and poignant advice when it comes to mentorship. She simply says, “Be the person you needed when you were sixteen”.
The power of mentoring is tremendous.
Mentorship is reciprocating. It’s a truly profound experience to show up and bridge the gap from adolescence to adulthood in an honest and authentic way.
And it’s scary.
Mentors often have so many questions as to what their role is, how they connect to kids, what should they say, and what shouldn’t they say. The truth is that even though participants often talk about receiving “guidance” and “advice” from their mentors, what they really get is someone who shows up in their life, unconditionally. Someone who is taking the time to show them that what they think and who they are is important to this world, no matter who and what that may be.
As I think about mentorship and the effects it’s had on my life and those around me, I realize the most powerful way to speak of mentorship is to let mentees speak for themselves.
Fortunately, I work at BYEP, and we get to ask 100 teenagers every season about what mentorship means to them.
Here’s what we got:
“[My mentor] offers me the kind of guidance that comes from an older sister. You listen to my situation with no judgement and I will appreciate that for the rest of my life. You shared with me stories that I could relate to so I would be reminded that I wasn't the only one struggling with specific things. You made me feel not alone.”
You made me feel not alone. Mentors have this power with teenagers who often feel isolated and outcast.
I’ve watched countless 20-somethings walk through our doors when starting their journey as a mentor.
Some have more experience than I do working with teens—hours logged in various forms of volunteering, employment, coaching, etc. Some are finding themselves in a completely unknown and alien environment drawing only on their experiences as a teen.
The strength of our mentor crew comes both from the universal desire to be the person that their teenage-self needed. And also in their diversity as humans. The variety of life experiences and personality creates a web of knowledge and compassion that connects each person in our program. This web creates a sense of belonging that people crave. Both for teens and mentors alike.
Another teen writes:
“Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us to help us relate and gain guidance for the future. One thing I appreciated was that even though you have a lot of hard stuff going on with your personal life, you still took time to come to BYEP and offer advice to us. Don't plateau for anybody.”
Let me write that again: “Don’t plateau for anybody”.
Above all else, this is the power of mentoring. It pushes you and challenges you to understand the world and yourself in a more honest way.
Mentoring will push you right off the edge of that plateau, holding hands with groups of people that together create a parachute. If you show up with a desire to connect, and you continue to show up, you will connect.
And that will be amazing. And it will be hilarious at times. And it will, at times, be painful and hard. And it will be beautiful.
It will be powerful.