High school is confusing. Those who’ve made it past that landmark on the road of life would surely agree. Coming into one’s own, making the big decisions of who to be and what to stand for would be enough–but on top of it all high school students work after school jobs, support their families, play sports, join leadership clubs, finish classwork, AND make moves toward future college and career dreams. Having a mentor during this stage of life can help students navigate their world while learning important skills along the way.
In January, mentors joined Reality Changers’ College Town Delegation (Reality Changers’ student leadership body) for the first iteration of the College Town Career Mentor Program. 13 career professionals from industries across San Diego joined 24 high achieving high school students to work on professional and personal goals. Monthly meetings brought all mentorship pairs together at Reality Changers to cover topics including: resume writing, elevator pitches, networking, interviewing, and goal setting. The program had a profound impact on students and mentors alike, giving every one of us an opportunity to learn along the way.
The impact of mentorship isn’t found solely in learning new professional skills, or refining a resume for the umpteenth time–although as a student new to the career world, having an expert to learn from helps immensely. The true impact of mentorship lies in the partnership, the investment, and the collaboration that emerges from two people unlikely to meet without such a program in place. Mentors have the opportunity to lend skills and knowledge to a younger generation, passing on wisdom in addition to hands-on learning, and gaining fresh perspective on challenges they themselves face. Students get to connect with someone in the “real world” allowing them the chance to not only get tailored advice, but also begin forming a network in their desired field, and discover if their career ambitions are a true fit. Together, the team takes on a flavor of its own, working together to find solutions, make progress, and ultimately emerge with mutual learning under their belts.
Mentorships necessitate collaboration and building trust through active listening, question asking, and showing up. These tenets, central to all relationships, make mentor relationships thrive. As these tenets come to the fore, so does another key aspect of mentorship’s impact. Mentoring relationships present the opportunity to practice vulnerability in the context of professional development while honing communication skills. Through sharing obstacles, admitting a lack of knowledge or experience, and sharing fears, mentors and mentees are vulnerable with one another about their professional journeys. For those in the modern work world, knowing how to ask for help with challenges and, on the flip side, how to listen and ask questions to find a good solution to those challenges sets these students and mentors up for continued success.
Good communication, the willingness to fail, and the grace to learn along the way helps in navigating the complexity and confusion of high school, college, and the career world. While life presents many avenues from which to learn this, mentorship provides a brave space and a unique relationship to learn from within.
Thank you to all the mentors and College Town delegates who made the first round of the Delegation Career Mentorship a success! We look forward to seeing you take the lead in the many spaces you learn, grow, and make change.