Blog / Why Is Mentoring Support Important? / A lot of work? Perhaps, but it's worth it.
04/09/2018
Why Is Mentoring Support Important?
A lot of work? Perhaps, but it's worth it.
Tatjana Nikolić, activist
A lot of work? Perhaps, but it's worth it.
It is ideal if, in our surroundings (private, business, academic), we have a mentor we appreciate, from whom we can learn and who wishes to share knowledge and experience with us. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Mentorship programmes, luckily, already exist in Serbia and they are slowly becoming more numerous, not just within companies which prepare potential or new employees for a more successful work in a collective, but also the independent ones focused on personal and professional development of programme participants – mentees, regardless of where they work.

Can such mentorship, which is not spontaneous, but rather initiated and supported from the “outside”, beyond the mentorship pair, work? Yes, it can. However, several preconditions need to be met.

Realistically speaking, we are not very used to such relationships with other people, and such kind of learning. We are also not accustomed to work on ourselves in such a way. Lectures, workshops, and trainings are much more common ways of learning and improving. But how many techniques and pieces of advice which we hear via such common forms of learning do we actually apply later on? Unfortunately, most people just attend workshops, listen, but afterwards fail to adopt much, they don’t use it in practice and actually have no benefit from it, yet they had invested their time. Among other reasons, this happens because we don’t have anyone’s support after a lecture or a workshop to make some changes, alter our habits, or continue to improve ourselves on our own. Mentor is precisely such type of support, but another precondition for successful mentorship work is also the effort to build a trustful relationship with an unknown or almost unknown person during a relatively short period of time, with honest exchange and cooperation, to become sufficiently acquainted and close, set aside vanity, stereotypes or personal insecurities, yet without becoming (just) friends and turning the relation into informal chatting.

It is especially complex and demanding to trust a person, learn from them and actively devote to developing a relationship with someone who is so different, whom we don’t understand easily, who does not meet our expectations. These are the exact mentorship relations which perhaps bring the most benefit, because we are finally in a situation to get a different, new perspective. We mostly tend to be surrounded with people similar to ourselves, because it is safe and it helps us to avoid introspection – we are in line with the standards of our environment. Therefore, another precondition is to believe in yourself and have self-confidence, but also be able to learn from different people, be willing to think about new ways and build relationships with people without prejudice and stereotypes. We are not worse than others if we are different, and we are not necessarily the best version of ourselves if we are surrounded by similar people! Self-confidence and understanding yourself and others is something you should - as with many other skills – work on! Mentorship programmes can create such a mentoring pair, which the mentees themselves would never initiate and with the mentors whom the mentees could never reach by themselves through their usual social circles.

On rare occasions are we instructed to think long-term and strategically about ourselves, taking into consideration challenges and great amount of work which await us every day. However, long-term thinking, planning and investing in oneself is often needed to develop and achieve serious results, and that is how we should observe mentorship. Mentors can help us in solving current challenges, but true success is to find balance between daily topics and problems and improvement aligned with long-term ambitions and wishes for the next three or five or ten years. Mentorship results are not necessarily seen right away, but accepting these aspects of mentorship will enable us to fully utilize its potential. Let’s look at a bigger picture!

Mentorship programmes last for a limited period of time, and it is important to use them when we are a part of them. On the other hand, many of us are afraid to miss important opportunities and so we accept many obligations, without realistically assessing our capacities. Being versatile, in a hurry, under stress, and busy are not necessarily virtues. In this case, if we have decided to do this and applied for the programme, it is important to devote to finding time, motivation and energy for personal development and improvement. Respecting your time, mentor's time, joint arrangements, and accountability for the process are important prerequisites for success.

A lot of work? Perhaps, but it's worth it.
AUTHOR
Tatjana Nikolić,
activist