Five top tips on being a good careers and business mentor

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“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” — Bob Proctor.

I recently had the opportunity to become a mentor to Olusegun Obdubena through Migrant Help’s Dream Academy mentoring scheme.

Olusegun is from Nigeria and claimed asylum in the UK. His dreams were to be able to work in the UK in an administrative office job. I helped Olusegun by listening to his story and offering some advice and counselling on some of the challenges he’s facing and to help prepare him for his interviews.

Migrant Help’s Dream Academy enables entrepreneurs to pass on transferrable business skills to refugees wanting to enter the workplace. The scheme consists of 1:1 mentoring sessions to help refugees and those seeking asylum to identify and take steps needed to achieve their career and business goals.

Refugees have dreams and aspirations like everyone. On arrival into the UK they can encounter a plethora of barriers that most of us (thankfully) won’t face, preventing them from working towards their life and career objectives. Some of these barriers can include access to the most basic of  resources (mobile phone, internet connection, a network of friends/family/former colleagues, education and finance).

Below I have outlined the top five tips for business leaders who want to become a careers or business mentor and help transform someone’s career prospects.

  1. Effective communication

One key tip to be a good mentor is effective communication. I’ve found it helpful to ask open-ended questions, listen carefully and respectfully, be patient (English isn’t usually refugees’ first language) and non-judgemental. Playing back what you’ve heard is a good way of ensuring that you’ve correctly understood what is being said to you.  

  1. Supportive feedback that empowers

Another tip is to offer supportive feedback and advice that empowers your mentee to move towards their goal(s). This might involve discussing your own experiences and insights and might require you to open up too, and show some vulnerability.

  1. Focus on what you can do

When mentoring refugees in particular it can feel overwhelming – for you and for your mentee. That’s when it’s important to focus on the positive of what you can do. Progress might be measured in a series of baby steps rather than giant leaps and your mentee will be appreciative of the help and supportive framing of their challenges.

Upon commencing your mentoring sessions, gain an understanding of what your mentee wants from the relationship and work collaboratively to agree on what is realistically achievable.

  1. Have a desire to help someone achieve greatness

To be a good mentor, remember you’re there to serve your mentee. Teach with purpose, love and compassion and a desire to see your mentee fulfil their goals and live their fullest life.

  1. Enjoy it

Mentoring is incredibly rewarding, can often be quite humbling, and you’ll likely find that through the process you learn something from your mentee too.

Refugees in the UK have, for the most part, arrived here with nothing but their dreams and hopes for a better life. Business leaders have so much to offer that could help transform a persons life by sharing their insights and experiences.  I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than that.

About the author

Helen Normoyle is the co-founder of My Menopause Centre, a femtech start-up and online clinic and community empowering women to take control of their menopause and thrive with evidence-based knowledge and advice from menopause experts.

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