August 22, 2016 8 min to read

The Silver Lining

Category : Leadership

Author: Mr Adarsh Khandelwal
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What Next?
For many young adults, choosing which direction to take after high school may feel like an insurmountable task. Should I pursue further studies? Which institute should I opt for? Which course is right for me? Should I take some time out? When it comes to choosing your career, the old maxim ‘know thyself’ is the key. Taking the time to carefully assess your interests, aptitudes and personality type goes a long way in identifying your potential. Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, a career mismatch can be incredibly counterproductive, so it is time to take a good look into the mirror. This is exactly where proper mentoring can help. “Just as the federal government can see something like health care as a basic need, mentoring should be that, too,” said David Shapiro, the CEO of The National Mentoring Partnership, a founding partner of America’s Promise Alliance that, among other things, advocates for federal funding. “Having consistent support, outside home is essential.” Experts emphasize that mentorship entails much more than offering compassion to a child; mentors serve a range of needs, from ensuring access to food and other basic resources to setting academic expectations.  A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modelling positive behaviours. An effective mentor understands that his or her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic, and tuned into the needs of the mentee. So in this regard anyone you feel comfortable talking to and who has a fair idea about the educational scenario can be your mentor– be it a teacher, relative or neighbour. However, with their expertise in the field, professional mentors generally succeed in providing more effective guidance to students.

The End of the Tunnel
Given that so much of our post-adult life is about creating an identity, it is not confounding for one to wonder where to hold — rather, which part of ourselves to project — when it comes to putting our best foot forward to the rest of the world. Through times of turbulence or tumult, having the right kind of mentor can be the silver lining and the light at the end of the tunnel. Nowadays, most high schools offer some form of career guidance service but sometimes they do not prove to be as effective as expected. This is usually because schools do not hire separate mentors or career counsellors to guide the students. However, having a one-to-one mentor can prove to be very crucial for a student at this age. Often teachers and faculty members find it difficult to interact with students about their lives outside the classroom. But in most cases, students can easily share with their mentors what they cannot with their teachers. By having a mentor, students could potentially gain more knowledge about colleges and universities and this could help them make wiser decisions about their career path. According to a 2011 study by the Institute of Higher Education Policy, mentoring for students helps them feel more connected and engaged on campus, ultimately improving students’ outcomes.

Mentors have a different role than teachers or parents, as they can easily push pupils to become agents of their own educational trajectories and destinies. Strong mentorship programs will help the students develop the confidence, self-esteem and skills they need to be successful in school and in life. Schools and educational institutions should appoint mentors as that will help to forge stronger links for students in career and employment programs thus enabling them to take full advantage of the working and learning opportunities available in the province and abroad. Children may lack motivation or a guide who would push them; they cannot look up to anybody because they are on the same level as someone else. The lack of academic advisors and mentors is a problem faced across the country by students of different backgrounds. Many high school students are eligible for college but they either do not attend or attend a less demanding postsecondary institution. Their problems are twofold—either (1) they lack the counselling and support structures necessary to apply to college, or (2) they lack the counselling and support structures that enable them to apply to the kind of institution for which they should aspire. Both problems are tragic. Proper mentoring in high-school should help with a one-on-one support in order to navigate the application processes of higher education, visit college campuses, take the right courses, and meet deadlines. It is not possible for one person to efficiently cater to the needs of all the students of an organization and that is where the role of a high school mentor comes into the picture.

For children to feel secure and comfortable in any group, they need to agree on certain ‘Ground Rules’. The rules should include:

1. Confidentiality between the mentor and the mentee. As they say, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” It is important to ensure sensitive issues or conversations do not go beyond boundaries.
2. Respect perspectives- There are no right or wrong answers. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion. Respect also means avoiding disrespectful language.
3. Listen to what is being said. Only one person talks at a time and the others listen actively. Everyone is expected to contribute to lead to a healthy discussion.
4. Participation for each member is a mandate. It is important for both the mentee/s and the mentor to actively participate so that the discussion may yield fruit.

Finding the Guide
Looking for a mentor should not be difficult. Professionals these days are actively pursuing mentoring to advance their careers. The school can also take a look at its alumnus as students who have graduated from the same school who possess a good understanding of the ways of the institution and thus can relate to the mindset of the students very easily. A good mentor should be willing to share his/ her skills, knowledge and expertise and accept the mentee where they currently are in their professional development. S/he should understand that good mentoring requires time and commitment and thus should be willing to continually share information and their ongoing support with the mentee. A good mentor exhibits the personal attributes it takes to be successful in the field. By showing the mentee what it takes to be productive and successful, they are demonstrating the specific behaviours and actions required to succeed in the field.
Mentors usually take a career assessment test in which one has to answer a series of questions designed to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the student. These tests also consider different personality types for each individual. Understanding a student’s personality helps the mentor identify careers which would make good use of his talents. While career tests should not be the main source of decision making, one can use them as a tool to decide what career might match the student’s interests. Mentors generally write a list of possible careers that match the student’s interests and capabilities. The next step involves thorough research on the prospective career options and creating a profile for each, including job description, salary, educational requirements and job outlook. A realistic look at the practical scenario will help the student to narrow down the options and look for a career with growth opportunities. While it is important to pick a career that will stimulate one’s mind, it is also important to be practical about the job market. Once the career path is decided, the mentor will start guiding the student to apply to colleges of his potential–  including application deadlines, tuition fees and length of study– where he can work towards turning his dream into a reality.

Following are the key elements frequently found in school-based mentoring programs:
1. The program operates within the school campus. It may result from a school-community partnership or developed as a stand-alone school service. School-based mentoring programs are usually housed at the school site, with adults and youth meeting in various campus locations and the program making use of school facilities and administrative space.
2. Mentoring relationships must meet for the duration of the school year. However, another good time for maintaining this relationship are the summer months or the summer break which can be fruitfully utilized especially for high school students who would be venturing out soon.
3. Mentors from the alumni or externals may be referred by teachers, counsellors, and other school staff. Parents may also request for mentors for their children, however it is best if school personnel initiate the program.
4. School-based mentoring is not simply a tutoring program, nor is it as unstructured as community-based mentoring. School-based programs must reside somewhere in between these two models. Mentoring matches are encouraged to view the development of a trusting, mutually satisfying relationship as the primary goal of their time spent together. Restricted to the campus setting, matches are encouraged to engage in some structured activities, often around classroom- or homework-related topics.

Concluding Thoughts
Having someone explain the expectations set by postsecondary institutions will help the student create a personal checklist of deadlines and tasks during his transition from the beginning of high school to the first day at college. Savitz-Romer, the education lecturer at Harvard, advocates for training principals to better utilize their counselors, in part by explicitly evaluating school performance based on student outcomes—and not simply based on tests, but on postsecondary plans. “Schools are primarily seen as places of academic instruction,” she said. “The more we hold schools accountable for postsecondary outcomes, the more they will work on their own systems of preparation.” She envisions a world in which every high school has a post-secondary leadership team, one with the same resources as instructional teams.

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