Lizz Ntonjira | Mentoring young Africans

Why mentorship prepares young Africans for the future of work

According to the Generation 2030 report launched by UNICEF Africa in 2017, Africa’s population will rise from 1.2 billion to 1.7 billion by the year 2030 and its population will remain youthful. The report indicates the importance of investing in human capital. Investing in mentorship is a way for the youth to identify opportunities and develop soft skills.

How to be a mentor

Lizz Ntonjira is the founder of the Lizz Ntonjira Network, based in Kenya, where she and her team offer professional mentorship for young people.“There are three approaches I take to mentoring young people. These include:

Consultant: Just as consultants are hired to provide specialized recommendations based on a wealth of industry knowledge, as a mentor, I’m responsible for sharing my own business insights gained through years of real-world experience. Mentors are often experienced in areas that mentees are not, and insight from a mentor can save a mentee both time and resources in figuring out a problem.

Counselor: Listen. Guide. But don’t give away all the answers. Although it can be easy for a mentor to simply point out mistakes, there are often valuable lessons for mentees in making those mistakes along the way. A good mentor will be able to reflect on their own experiences to determine when the journey was more insightful than the outcome. In these instances, a mentor must play the role of counselor and provide guidance but not answers, enabling their mentee to figure out the right course of action.

Cheerleader: In addition to all the constructive feedback and advice that a mentor can give, they should also provide support and enthusiasm.  Mentors should help celebrate a mentee’s successes – no matter how big or small,” she says.

“We have career sessions where the youth have a unique opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with industry thought leaders.The workshops aim at training youth on how to position themselves for the job market, mentoring them on personal branding and personal development, enlightening them on unexploited career paths that they can venture into and training on entrepreneurship. Additionally, every month, we have a newsletter that goes out to the members informing them about various opportunities they can explore, e.g. jobs, grants and funding opportunities, e-learning opportunities for professional and personal development from top tier international organisations and universities as well as scholarship opportunities,” Lizz concludes.

How to be mentored

Take time to discover your inclinations, abilities and objectives. Read and watch documentaries about the people who inspire you and want to emulate.

Write or call them and ask if you can meet them and why. If this is someone you work with, approach them confidently and professionally and ask to talk them.

Let the relationship flow naturally. Set your goals and ask them about the challenges they confronted before getting employed and how they developed their careers and take their advice.

Be accountable to yourself and to your mentor. If they assign you a task, do it and keep them updated on your progress. This depicts you as a trustworthy and hardworking individual.

The Link between mentorship and the future of work

To put this into perspective, James Gitau, a youthful Digital Advocacy Officer with the World Wide for Nature-International says,”being mentored enables you to identify your weaknesses and how to turn them into strengths. A mentor is reachable, approachable and understands your goals.”

Finally, it can be concluded that mentorship offers a linkage to combine technical and academic achievement with the job- related skills. This includes communicating ideas and visions in a concrete manner as a mentee builds their career. As a result, the youth learn the art of decision making as well as listening. The more you listen to the advice your mentor gives you, the more you get out of your efforts at work. Mentors often put themselves in the shoes of the person they are guiding. Young people learn that empathy is equally important.

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