We’ve said before how beneficial mentoring can be for your career and how helpful it is if you can find a professional from the career that you want to go into who is willing to give you advice. But, do you know how beneficial it can be for you to also act as a mentor for someone younger than you?
You might think ‘but I don’t know anything, how can I mentor someone else?’ Well, stop it, you’re wrong. You know LOADS of stuff. Mentoring doesn’t have to be just about careers. It can be about helping someone through the issues that they face as they go through secondary school. In fact, research in 2009 estimated that nearly 70% of secondary schools have some form of peer mentoring in place. We think it’s a brilliant thing to get involved with – I actually used to be a peer mentor back when I was in sixth form – so we’ve come up with a few reasons you should get involved with a peer mentoring scheme (or similar) at your school or sixth form.
It gives you skills that make you more employable
As a peer mentor you’ll learn lots of skills that could make you more desirable to future employers – including ‘soft skills’ that you’re not normally taught in schools. We spoke to Lynda Ketteridge, Student Support Worker at Greensward Academy in Essex (my old school, for the record) to find out more about how acting as a mentor can benefit young people. “They develop skills during their training as well as working with the mentees of active listening, showing empathy, being genuine, questioning techniques, dealing with difficult situations,” Lynda says. “If you can get them right, it can make such a difference in your own life as well.”
It will impress universities
Universities love to see applicants who have been involved in a number of extra-curricular activities – it shows that you’re more interesting and will most likely put you above candidates who haven’t been involved in anything outside of the classroom. Obviously you’re unlikely to be offered a place on your extracurricular activities alone, but it will definitely improve your application.
“The strongest applicants are those who can link their extra-curricular activities to their proposed course of study,” says an Assistant Registrar for Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Warwick. So remember to link all those skills that you gain – active listening, empathy, questioning techniques – to what you want to do. Peer mentoring is an especially good thing to get involved with if you want to go into nursing, counselling, social work, or other careers where you’re supporting other people.
It could help you decide what to do with your life
You might find that you have a real knack for the kind of work you do as a peer mentor. And you might find that it’s something that really interests you and that you really enjoy doing. And that actually, you want to pursue helping people as a career.
“Being a peer mentor helps students to identify their own strengths and challenges,” Lynda says. “It helps them identify the right career path. I’ve had many mentors come up to me and say I never realised how important these skills were and it’s really made me want to go into social work, or nursing, or teaching.”
It’ll build your confidence
Acting as a mentor can be a real confidence-building experience. Working with younger students to help them through any problems they’re facing is very rewarding – seeing how far they’ve come just by talking through issues with you is great. But also, it can be a real confidence booster when you reflect on it and realise that it’s through the skills (like active listening, empathy, being genuine and using questioning techniques) that you have developed that this younger student has also improved.
How can I get involved?
As we’ve already said, it’s been estimated that nearly 70% of secondary schools have a peer mentoring scheme already in action so ask around at your school or sixth form as to whether there’s already something in place that you can get involved with. If there isn’t already something in existence, have a chat with a teacher or your school counsellor and see if it’s something you could set up – there are lots of resources online that would be able to help too.
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