This is the second post in a three part series on mentoring.
Find a focus and stick to it
A major first step is to decide early on the main focus of your mentoring. At Ahaspora, “The mentoring program was launched in December 2013, and has been conducted annually for three years. We believe that with the right platform and guidance, many students in Ghana have the capacity to make a difference in our society. As such, with the theme of ‘changing mindsets’, our program is centered around assisting these students, who would not otherwise be exposed to a mentor, to learn how to apply what they are taught through acquiring critical thinking skills and inspiring them to improve their work ethic and attitude to life through experiences shared by a diverse range of role models. Our past speakers have ranged from Dr. Awuah, Founder and President of Ashesi University to M.Anifest, a musical artist. Ultimately, the program and its activities strive to make these students better citizens of Ghana and the global community.”
I share the above statement to demonstrate the focus of Ahaspora’s mentoring program. We decided very quickly once we assessed our organization and members, and what could be a niche was not to develop an academic mentoring system (although naturally a lot of mentors have helped their mentees with academic-related issues), but to focus on “access” and “exposure” such as the ‘How Tos’ that would make these high school students become better citizens, better leaders, and better professionals. This emphasis is based on the soft skills that we have learned from living and working abroad as well as at home – time management, work ethic, citizen participation. So in our programming, for instance, we’ve taken the group to the beach outside Ghana’s capital Accra, so students appreciate the country’s beauty and their right to experience it. You will be surprised that three quarters of the participants had never been to the beach!
TIP: Find you (your organization’s) strength and let your mentoring focus on that strength, so that you don’t spread yourself too thin and can sustain the program.
Minimize your reach and concentrate on depth (quality over quantity)
Our first mentoring event in 2013 had 100 students. We then paired all 100 students to 48 Ahasporan mentors – meaning each mentor had 2-3 mentees and were expected to engage the mentees over a year. We failed miserably! Let’s be honest: we are all busy with our jobs and everything else that engaged people, who tend to be most interested in mentoring, do. Therefore, while all our mentors meant well, the number of mentees per person simply didn’t work out for most! We therefore re-strategized and decided to focus on depth instead of reach – we developed a fellowship, where each mentoring event enabled 100 students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to meet industry players, join speed mentoring sessions, meet young professionals, discuss careers. We then revised what happened after the event: We added an application process through which we select 40 of the 100 students to be a part of the year-long mentoring program.
This program includes the one-on-one mentoring, but also has three sessions, one during each school vacation, where the mentoring community comes together to focus on a particular topic or area. As such, at the end of a year, we can truly know what has happened to the 40 students, and can truly point to impacting their lives. Overtime, the numbers will expand, but using such a phased approach has meant that the mentoring relationships are more meaningful.
TIP: Just remember – quality over quantity!
This is the second segment of a three part blog on mentoring by Christabel Dadzie, the Founder/Coordinator of Ahaspora Young Professionals . Ahaspora is a member organization of the HALI Access Network. Christabel is a Social Protection Specialist for the World Bank, based in Ghana.