In my last post, we spoke about experiences being a mentee, but what does it feel like to be a mentor? Let me share with you a personal experience of mine:
A few years ago, a friend of mine expressed interest in my vegan lifestyle; we had a really good conversation about my values and motivations, and I clarified for her questions and misconceptions she had about veg*ism. She expressed genuine interest, and over the next few months she continued the conversation with me until she decided to become vegetarian; throughout this process I simply shared my experiences with her, and offered guidance and a listening ear when she felt stuck or confused. She later told me that she felt inspired by me in particular because I didn’t tell her what to do or offer specific advice – she appreciated that I just heard her out and allowed her to find her own way.
To me, mentorship is about meeting people where they’re at, and sharing experiences with them that may be able to guide them in their own thought processes and life decisions. But again, mentorship is such a subjective experience – let’s hear some other stories about being a mentor…
“My wife and I were involved in a legal battle to save trees in the city of Toronto. A number of our students became aware of this struggle, familiarized themselves with the issue, attended the hearings, and expressed moral support. I think they learned a bit about how we as professors are called not only to teach our ethical and ecological values, but also to live and defend them.” (Associate Professor)
“I had the absolute pleasure of being involved in Orientation as a leader for three years. On top of being an energetic ambassador of the college community I was representing (#NewCollege), I also had the opportunity to share the information, experiences, and hardships that I faced as a student to better prepare other students. The most rewarding part is seeing these same students grow and develop year by year.” (Alumni)
“When I was a head leader during University College orientation week, I met a student who was shy and reserved. Slowly, he became enthusiastic about the open-minded and inclusive atmosphere we had created among our group. I took extra time to get to know him to make sure he was settling in, and he eventually confided in me that he was gay, and had struggled for years with his identity. I told him I was proud of how he was able to be himself – I’m glad I was able to be there for him during such an important moment of self-identity. (Fifth year student)
“In third year, I had the opportunity to lead a community-engaged learning program at the Centre for Community Partnerships. In the process of promoting the program, I had the goal of getting more male students to participate. In speaking with some friends, I expressed the value of community-engaged learning and working with youth. They identified with what I mentioned and continued on to participate in the program.” (Fourth year student)
“I have often felt like a mentor with students when advising them on alternative program options that they had not considered, or how to appropriately and effectively raise concerns with their work placement supervisors. I also draw upon my own personal experience in offering advice or encouragement to students – sometimes about what to do in a situation, sometimes about what not to do.” (Undergraduate Student Advisor)
“I recall this one time a student-staff consulted with me about “next steps” after graduation and what the “best “decision would be. I let them know that there was no “right or wrong” choice and they needed to be honest and authentic with their needs and wants. I assured them that there are many paths that can encourage growth and development. I think that advice gave them a sense of relief, knowing that they are in control of their future.” (Student Life Officer)
Like we saw with the mentee stories, experiences being a mentor are quite diverse! Some felt like they were mentors during a conversation, while others thought their actions created a mentorship experience. Some were in a role in which their goal was to share their stories and guide others, whereas others fell into a more organic experience. A common thread through these experiences is that all of them involved sharing stories or experiences, and somebody learned something from it (hopefully!).
What does it mean to you to be a mentor? Can you think of a time when you felt like a mentor?
Attend Exploring Mentorship and/or the Mentorship and Peer Programs 2016 Opportunities Fair during Mentorship Week (February 8 – 12, 2016) for more information on being a Peer Mentor at U of T. For more information on Mentorship Week, visit here: http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/mpp/mentorship-week
Written By: Kaylah Krajnc – Mentorship Programs Intern, Student & Campus Community Development