January is National Mentoring Month. Originally dedicated in honor of youth mentoring, the month builds awareness around the importance and impact of mentoring in the lives of youth, especially those underprivileged socially or financially. And for a good reason. Youths who have mentors are more likely to succeed in many areas of life.
According to Youth.gov, young people with at least one caring mentor in their lives are more likely to graduate high school and attend college. They are less likely to fall victim to substance abuse, and less likely to be incarcerated. Research from “The Mentoring Effect” says at-risk youth with a mentor are more likely to hold a leadership position in a club, sports team, or school council. They have more communication and interpersonal skills, and enter the job market with soft skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace. With so many benefits, youth mentoring is of the same fundamental importance as the continuation of mentoring throughout adulthood and in the workplace.
Youth Mentoring Expectations Versus Reality
As a believer in the positive impact of mentoring with a drive to continuously learn, I joined a local youth support organization to be a student mentor. I was paired with a middle school student who was struggling, socioeconomically and in school. She and I began meeting twice a week during school lunch.
I was hoping to help a student with homework. Provide her with some good study skills. Maybe pass along some pearls of wisdom here and there. I ended up with so much more. As the relationship progressed, I developed a deep relationship with a child who confides personal family challenges, invites me to her dance performances, and knocks me down with a hug after summer break.
She’s taught me how to acknowledge and address racial issues, recognize when someone has reached their limit of being serious and needs a silly dance party, and the importance of empowerment to a young girl in a world where some of the deck seems stacked against her.
Benefits for Youth Mentors: Energizing the Mind, Spirit, and Workweek
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap. If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.”
Youth mentoring experience can serve as both an engagement of the current workforce and an empowerment of the next generation. The experience can be incredibly rewarding personally and surprisingly beneficial professionally.
Build Confident Communication: Mentoring allows employees to become more self-aware and confident in their skills as a mentor and counselor. Learning to approach and handle different situations gives employees the opportunity to work on their problem solving and communication skills in order to approach situations from a new perspective, building confidence within themselves and their mentees.
Re-energize: Choosing to initiate a youth mentoring activity or program gives employees an activity once or twice a week that pulls them out of their routine and invigorates the rest of their day or week with a change of pace, a new project, or discussion. I find my twice-a-week lunch activity boosts my engagement when I return to the office, giving me a renewed productivity for the rest of the day.
Boost Creativity: Spending an afternoon with a child quickly reminds me why I drew all the time as a kid or made up a new dance every other week. Their passion and excitement over what might seem like something small is contagious. Employees see things through the eyes of a new perspective, giving them a renewed passion and energy as they make their way back to the office.
What Youth Mentoring Can Do for Internal Culture
From an organizational perspective, youth mentoring is often overlooked as a component of employee development, it has many unseen perks.
Engaging with mentoring in general – say through a workplace program for career development – builds a sense of fulfillment that fuels engagement and satisfaction at work. With youth mentoring, not only can organizations create these same benefits, but also give a leg up to the next generation – all while having some childlike fun.
Getting involved in youth mentoring can boost organization culture. These activities:
- Bring teams together with shared experiences
- Energize and boost brainstorming
- Improve internal communications around team values
At Chronus, we held a team volunteering activity with Jubilee Reach for National Mentoring Month. We participated in our own versions of flash mentoring and reverse mentoring as we got refresher lessons in Spanish and fractions, and learned a new way to play hot potato. (Yes, I too, thought there was only one version. Apparently not.) Following the event, the energy at the office was buzzing with excitement and seemed to bring a new level of determination and motivation around our company mission, knowing what a powerful impact mentoring can have on individuals.
Mentoring works. We know that. And there are endless ways we can continue applying this powerful concept.
“Public investment in mentoring has plateaued for many years,” Nancy Altobello, Ernst and Young’s Global Vice Chair of Talent said in a Huffington Post article. “In addition, the seemingly endless parade of grim statistics about the current and future prospects of the nation’s youth serve as a constant reminder that the mentoring movement’s efforts are more critical than ever before.”
Including youth mentoring in workplace development strategies gives organizations an edge. Organizations can empower continued engagement and fulfillment for their employees today, while preparing the next generation to join the workforce and tackle tomorrow’s challenges. By applying their employees and dedication to mentoring to their local communities, organizations can harvest benefits in and outside the office walls.
Get involved today! Start a mentoring program or find an event or program near you.