By Francis Ewherido
We briefly discussed mentorship last week. Today, let us go a little deeper. What is mentorship? Since the focus of today’s topic is on youngsters, I consider this definition most appropriate: “Mentorship is a relationship between two people where the individual with more experience, knowledge, and connections is able to pass along what he has learned to a more junior individual within a certain field.”
The two parties in a mentorship are the mentor and the mentee. In simple terms, a mentor is a guide, adviser or counsellor, while a mentee is the person being advised, guided or counselled. Everyone needs a mentor at some point in life or always, but every youngster needs a mentor for many reasons (choice of school, choice of course/specialisation, career, relationship, etc).
Youngsters are comparatively inexperienced. They are also at a stage in life where they take crucial decisions with far-reaching implications. Many people in their 50 upwards, who are living unfulfilled lives today, are suffering from the wrong choices they made as youngsters.
So part of the purpose of mentoring youngsters is to help them avoid making the same mistakes. Another reason why youngsters need mentorship is that youngsters, who are left to their own devices, succumb more to peer pressure. Nature forbids vacuum, so their peers fill the gap that mentors should have occupied, and when a blind man leads another blind man, you know the outcome
Life is a journey that starts from conception. Once people are born the journey commences outside the womb and with it learning, then mentorship.
Mentorship should start with parents, then school and religious set up and on and on. Unfortunately, many parents do not have mentoring skills, or do not create time to mentor their children.
By the time such children become youngsters, their lives are like an “accidented” vehicle. But the good news is that like many “accidented vehicles,” their lives can still be “repaired.” But some vehicles are listed as “beyond repair.” Can you draw some parallel with some of the people around? These are some reasons why mentorship is a must for youngsters.
Beyond mentorship in homes, schools and religious set ups, there are more formalised mentoring. Before a mentor can effectively guide a mentee, the mentee needs to have a reasonable idea of what he wants. It quickens the process. It is like a patient going to see a doctor.
If he can clearly describe his medical situation, it helps the doctor to offer treatment faster. But some youngsters do not even know what they want, so the mentor must take additional steps in helping the youngster to clear his head to give him focus. Legendary film producer, Steven Spielberg, put it this way: “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
Mentorship also comes handy when people are at a cross road. A young man was on the verge of calling off his wedding a week to the date, but the enormity of his action weighed him down terribly. He decided to seek the help of a marriage counsellor.
They had only one counselling session. Just 30 minutes into the session, the scales fell off the eyes of the young man. He was a mixture of emotions: he laughed at himself for being so blind to what was obvious; he also shed tears of relief because what he thought was a mountain was levelled in 30 minutes. The marriage took place as scheduled and it is now five years old.
“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” –J Loren Norris. The young man met a counsellor who had a similar challenge in his time and all he did was to share with him how he overcame it and the problem was solved.
How often youngsters groan, wallow in self-pity and frustration, while some even commit suicide, when there are people around them who have had similar challenges and overcame them. Youngsters commit suicide because a lover jilted them.
Many grown-ups around have had at least one heartbreak. They survived it. How did they do it? Only if these youngsters, who took their lives, sought help from people who could have guided and counselled them. Time heals, nothing lasts forever and replacing what is lost with something better is magical.
I said earlier that parents are mentors. But when the area of mentorship is outside your scope, help your children get mentors, if necessary. Our next mentorship would not have been possible without the mentee father’s intervention because the mentor is a big man.
The problem some youngsters have with getting their desired mentors is accessibility. Parents and older relatives should help in this regard.
A final year undergraduate came back from school very dejected. On enquiry, he told his father that he had made a wrong choice and should have studied the course he turned his back on when entering the university. In fact, he wanted to go back to school to study that course.
The father wondered what could have gone wrong to necessitate the volte face. From their discussions, he said a lecturer had opened their eyes to the uncertainties that waited them after graduation. The sector is one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies.
Promptly, the father contacted an old school mate, Emeka, who is a top dog in that industry, to be his son’s mentor. Just one 45-minute session and the young man started getting his bearings back.
The son’s school teacher and the father’s old school mate here show the little, but significant, difference between teaching and mentoring. Teaching is imparting knowledge, while mentorship is also imparting knowledge, but with a view to counsel, advise or/and guide.
Mentorship not only shortens the mentee’s route to success, but makes it more certain. Why do you think the Igbos remain the most successful traders in Nigeria? It is the mentorship which comes in the form of apprenticeship. It has become an entrenched culture, and as long as they maintain it, they will continue to dominate that sector.
It is also mentorship that has continued to give the Southwest an edge in terms of the number of professionals in the financial sector. There is this eagerness to groom the next generation of professionals to become chartered insurers, chartered accountants, etc.
The beauty is that they did not discriminate against people from outside the Southwest in my time and I was a beneficiary of this mentorship when I was studying to become a chartered insurance practitioner.
However, mentees must have certain traits before mentorship can bear fruits. One is humility. A proud person cannot be mentored. You need humility. When I was studying to become chartered, most of my lecturers were either junior to me in age or my contemporaries.
But that was inconsequential to me. My goal was to become a chartered insurance practitioner and that was all that mattered. My children teach and guide me at home on these emerging cultures and technologies. The other trait is patience. Mentees need patience. An Igbo boy can be an apprentice for between five to 10 years patiently serving his master and mastering the trade. Without these two factors, mentorship is practically impossible.
Mentees should also avoid this mistake. Do not ever ask your mentors for money. It is an absolute NO-NO. The job of a mentor is to guide, counsel and advise you, and not to give you money. Mentees must never ask, no matter the financial pressure. As the relationship develops, your mentor will know when you need financial assistance. Do not forget he has passed through what you are passing through before. The rule is: let the mentor give on his own volition, not you asking, lest you destroy the relationship. He will feel you are after his money and only used mentorship as a disguise to get close to him.
Let me conclude that mentorship need not be face to face, it can be virtual. Also, someone can be your mentor without any agreement. Many authors mentor countless people via books, audio/visual tapes, etc. A mentee only needs to know what he wants and go to the source.