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Mentors may be younger than you think

by Marjan Companjen, &samhoud foundation

When it comes to wisdom, we often tend to think about grey-haired, older men and women who share their life experiences with those who are younger in years than them. But sometimes it helps to get advice from those who are only a few steps ahead of us in terms of life phases.

We found this during the #brighterfuture summer camps the &samhoud foundation organized during the last few years.
Young people especially need to make fairly major decisions about their future direction. This can feel quite daunting, because there is so much choice nowadays, especially in more developed nations. During the camp they work on their own Personal Vision, which gives them a basis for making decisions based on what matters to them, what they want and what they are good at.

Making major life decisions can feel to many like climbing a mountain. Some experience a tremendous sense of exhilaration as they come closer to the top, whereas others are fearful of getting lost and falling off a cliff. For the latter, it may be more helpful to be mentored by someone who is a few steps ahead of them and can explain the path between them, rather than having wisdom shared by someone who has seen the top and clarifies the climber’s position.

Being part of the summer camp team appeals especially to our younger colleagues in &samhoud, many of whom are in their twenties. Most act as a personal mentor to a participant and several have shared their personal story with the whole group of how they made important decisions in their life. Stories of dreams not turning out the way they had hoped for, but also that these often resulted in new discoveries about themselves and what really is important to them. To them it did not mean the end of the world, but rather taking a different road to perhaps a similar destination.

Being only a few steps ahead in life, they offered valuable perspectives to participants, courage to make choices in terms of further studies, to make a plan and to take their first steps towards realizing their dreams.

These mentor-mentee relationships turned out to be a winning combination, both for the participants and to my younger colleagues, who also developed tremendously in terms of their coaching skills and their own self-confidence. Inspiring and connecting with these young people led to fantastic breakthroughs. The opportunity was given, they responded and a lot of potential was untapped.

Are you in a position to give a young colleague or young friend the opportunity to act as a mentor to someone?

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