In January AMASV dove into professional development, learning from career coach Amii Barnard-Bahn about her Promotability Index- highlighting five key areas to focus on to advance one’s career. One important area of focus was the relationships developed while building one’s career. The foundation of mentorship in a person’s life is the bond they establish with an individual who can offer them support where they need it, and guidance towards success in their future endeavors. The benefits of a relationship such as this can last a lifetime on the part of the mentor and the mentee. In this blog post we will explore different approaches to mentorship and hear from successful mentors in the Sacramento area to learn about elements of a successful mentor relationship. Whether seeking a mentor or looking to give back to the community there are important learnings that can be gleaned from mentorship, and we feel that mentoring is an important part of professional development.
Take Dimitrius Stone and his mentee as an example. Dimitrius Stone is the Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a nonprofit organization that matches adults with youth who want to realize their full potential. “I’ve currently been matched with my little brother since he was 9. He’s now almost 17.” Said Stone, “Just to see him grow, the challenges he faced, you know being there for him. He’s living with a single mom. I am able to give him a different perspective, but it’s more of just really listening to him and just giving him support when he asks for it. It’s just been a great experience and also it’s allowed me to get in touch with the inner kid in myself.”
Stone started as a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2013, and took on the role as CEO in 2020 just eight days before the nationwide lockdown began due to the worldwide pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. “Although I never set out to be a non-profit Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer, when I saw the position become open and I felt some of the challenges that had been going on I said what better way for me to support and keep this going than to apply to lead the organization.”
One in three young people grow up without a mentor according to Mentoring.com. However gaining invaluable tools for success and key skills from their mentors is not the core of mentorship. A mentor is someone who shows a young person that they matter. For our youth, a mentor is someone who expresses care and camaraderie. Outstandingly, young adults with a mentor are 130% more likely to hold leadership positions throughout adulthood.
Mentors can help youth overcome difficult life changes according to PsychologyToday.com. Nonparent mentoring encourages intellectual and emotional development among many other dividends. Mentees become self aware and confident. So what makes a good mentor? Someone who throughout times of distress or hardship reminds their mentees of their value. Someone who listens without making their mentee feel inferior. They take what their mentee says with full value, and do not give advice or comments where it is not wanted. Someone who pushes their mentee out of their comfort zone, and encourages them to set goals and have high expectations for themselves. Someone who shows a genuine interest in their mentee’s lives and values their ideas and feelings. Someone who does not impose their beliefs on their mentees, but rather reminds them that they are not being judged. This encourages mentees to think through decisions critically and make good choices.
“We really enjoy spending time together and I think he enjoys having another adult that he can talk to other than his parent.” Stone said about his mentee. “One thing I really love about being a big brother is having the opportunity to do things that you want to introduce your little to and then there are some times where you may want to ask your little brother, hey just tell me what you want to do and we’ll do that. So you can expose them to new things and also you can be exposed to things they enjoy. There’s a lot of opportunity, pre-pandemic, to go to Sac Republic games or the Sacramento Kings games or the RiverCats games. We were always able to connect and have such a good time at those games. Shout out to Quarry Park Park, it’s a super fun rock climbing and ziplining place. We went early fall 2020 and (my mentee) had a blast as did I. He kept saying “Man that was fun, we gotta do that again” so I think just having the opportunity to do things that are physical that allows for a little bit of release and physical activity which really helps.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters also has programs that help youth get out into the community like Bigs with Badges, a community based program, and a program in the works that will revolve around sports. Their sports program will arrange activities for Bigs to participate in with their Littles. The sports program is designed to encourage more people to volunteer with the organization. This program specifically hopes to recruit more men to the program to serve as Big Brothers, as there is a waiting list of kids looking for mentors and BBBS hopes to match a majority of boys with Big Brothers.
To others who are hoping to become mentors, Stone has this to say, “I think national mentoring month has highlighted the need to have those mentors who can at least provide that friend, someone else who believes in them outside of their home. I think what you can expect out of mentorship is that you can just expect to have a positive impact on someone’s life and really that’s kind of the main thing. As a mentor you’re doing more listening than you are giving advice however what I’ve gained, and I think what a lot of volunteers I’ve talked to have gained, is that a lot of times when you’re in that back and forth with your mentee and they’re having a challenge that they just want to vent to you or they even ask you what would you do in the same situation. I think what you can expect to gain is just some self awareness on your own decisions as well.”
Let’s step back and think about the milestones in a young person’s life like finding their first job, thinking about higher education, or buying their first car. MentorWashington.com says that although it may seem straightforward as to how to do these things to some, it may not be so clear for others. Mentors help their mentees with their homework, study for tests, and advocate for school attendance. They help young people expand their career interests and encourage steps to achieve their goals.
Mentoring gives youth both immediate and long term benefits like healthier relationships and lifestyle choices, higher enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations, enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence, and improved interpersonal skills according to Youth.gov.
It is important to consider how essential mentorship is to our youth as they start to consider higher education and career opportunities beyond that as well. Tina Reynolds is an advocate for young professionals and has mentored hundreds as a successful media professional in the Sacramento area. Reynolds is the Founder and President of Uptown Studios, a full service marketing and communications firm that has a fun team on staff who go by names such as Digital Adventurer, Chief Amazement Officer, Video Samurai, and Queen of The Brands.
“There are 6 to 10 people that I am mentoring at any given point.” Said Reynolds, “Back before COVID we would all meet at Pancake Circus and that’s where our mentoring would happen. We’d eat pancakes at the pancake dive and talk about things. (Mentoring) has been part of my community giving forever.”
Reynolds is an advocate for professional development and social change. She is open to being a mentor to anyone who needs mentoring and even asks her employees to introduce her as their mentor instead of their boss. She always encourages them to be their best self, and leaves it up to them to succeed at her company. She lets them take the lead in their work, creating an overall productive and intuitive environment at Uptown.
According to Dave Wilkin, founder of LinkedIn’s Ten Thousand Coffees, a mentorship platform that connects young professionals to CEOs, “There’s a lot of value in having a conversation from someone who is different from you…This is a way people have always uncovered the best ideas and the way people become inspired in their careers.”
So don’t be afraid, says Reynolds, to invite someone in a position you aspire to be in to a conversation. Ask for some of their time, and most people will be happy to give that to you. “When you come in make sure you have your questions very neatly in front of you. It’s not just a casual conversation. It is very specific about “I need help on these things.” If it works really well, then you can ask for another half hour conversation. What you’re doing is you’re getting the gift of time from very busy people, so asking people for 15 minutes and having very specific questions, people will say yes. People need help. It’s really about relationships, who you know is going to get you in the door.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is always looking for anyone who wants to support them or join them who understands the importance of mentorship or believes in the importance of providing mentors to youth in the Sacramento area. That support can be in one of three ways. Time, Talent, or Treasure. BBBS currently has just over 80 youth on their waiting list. They are always looking for quality caring adults. So if you own a horse ranch you could provide ten youth and their mentors an opportunity to do horseback riding for a day or if you own boats you can help get youth out on the water and just enjoy time with their mentors.
For more information about becoming a mentor or a “Big” click here
For information about enrolling a child to be matched with a Big click here
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