So, you want to be young people’s mentor?

I am very excited to see an increase in the number of young professionals or university students who are expressing interesting and taking an initiative to mentor young people. I am very optimistic that such mentorship will contribute to change the narrative of Africa.  From my mentorship experience, I have gained some lessons that I would like to share with people who are interested or have just taken their first attempt at mentoring young people.

You are not dealing with kids, you are dealing with young people.

There is a big difference between how you treat kids, and how you treat the youth. Whatever you do, do not assume they don’t know anything about life. Trust me, they know enough. Some of the young people have had experiences and have drawn lessons that you can learn from. Therefore, don’t treat them as toddlers. For God’s sake don’t call them kids in their presence and in their absence. When you set your mind that you are dealing with young people who are energetic, industrious, willing to learn and ready to adopt new innovations, your approach to mentorship is going to be different.

Patience is key

When dealing with the youth in secondary and tertiary institutions, you need to be extra patient. The tendencies and the habits of the youth is likely going to test your patience. The students might not deliver on what you agreed. The students are not you or have not matured to your level. So, in the same way, people were patient with you when you were their age, also be patient with them.

Young People are Independent and have free will

You are not there to replicate yourself or create your minions. You are there to support students to live up to their fullest potential. Therefore, do not impose your identity on the students. Don’t not force the young people to adopt a career path you want them to adopt.

Most importantly, make peace with the fact that the students might not just become what you want them to become. You will support students who will end up withdrawing from school because they know longer want to be in school for example. This news will break you if you are not careful. You might even receive worse news. But if you understand that the young people have free will and choice, you will make peace with this reality.

Don’t be an empty mentor

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to become a mentor, and you don’t feed yourself the right material. As a mentor, you are not expected to be empty. You must be filled with wisdom and insights. I therefore recommend that as a mentor you must interact with personal development literature regularly. You can read books. Watch educational videos. Listen to podcasts. Attend trainings.

Be dedicated to lifelong learning. Pursue your dreams. Achieve your goals. This is how you create new material to share to the young people.

Have discipline and self-control

You are going to be dealing with students who might idolize you. Students who might find you very attractive. Students who will make advances on you. This applies to both males and females. For example, after a session a young female student might be attracted to the speaker. She may start making phone calls at odd hours, paying you a visit etc. Do not take advantage of the student. You need to be disciplined enough to manage these issues. You need to vow to yourself that you will not take advantage of students in anyway. Do not sexually exploit both male and female mentees.

Be Honest

Your mentees will ask you questions. Do not pretend you know something when you don’t. They are young not stupid. They know when you are lying. They know when you are mumbling rubbish. If you don’t know say it. If you regularly interact with your mentees you can take that as your homework and do your research so that when you meet next time, you have something to share. You can even make it be their homework so that you both could learn.

Your Character is Key

Be someone who has good character. Be someone who does not have a questionable moral compass. Some will argue that morality is relative. I will not get into that debate. Even though morality is relative globally, but in your context, I believe there are moral absolutes. Therefore, in your context, make sure that you meet the absolute standards of morality. In short, be a good citizen in your context.