Mentoring matters: Pour wisdom into others

By | 3 minute read | January 29, 2020

Monique Collins addresses a group of student mentees.

Every now and then, everyone gets stuck at a fork in the road, and the path forward is unclear. For me, it happened when I was 21 and had been working in retail for three years. At the time, I was an Operations and Staffing Manager, but felt there was more for me to do.

Fortunately, my manager encouraged me to follow my dream of getting a college degree. She coached me through interviews and provided the support I needed to make a change – or, in other words, she mentored me.

January is National Mentoring Month, and I want to raise awareness of how much mentoring matters.  According to mentoring.org, young adults who were at risk but had mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions.

My mother only had a high school degree but she worked three jobs to make sure I wanted for nothing. She aspired for me to get a college degree and worked towards that by surrounding me with people who had degrees to expose me to higher education and all its perks. She knew that if I knew what was possible, I would go for it. Turns out, she was right.

After leaving retail and going back to school, I encountered another mentor in college in my assistant dean in the College of Business at Prairie View A&M University.  During my senior year, she encouraged me to seek employment at IBM, recommending me as one of the few PVAMU business students to visit IBM Austin and interview.

This guidance changed my future. In 2018, I joined an IBM sales training program. There, I met two former P-TECH students who benefitted from this training and mentorship program. When I was asked to be a mentor for our local P-TECH school in Dallas, I jumped on the opportunity.

Since November 2018, I’ve been working with students aged 14-16 at Adamson P-TECH. I spend two Fridays a month visiting 2-4 classes and one after-school program to provide group mentorship.  It’s approximately four hours a month. So, if you consider that there are 720 hours in a 30-month day, it’s just a little bit of time that makes a big impact.

Typically, we discuss interview prep, time management, personal values, the importance of collaboration, resume workshops and other soft skills. In the after-school program we play games and get to know each other. This builds rapport so that students are more open to learning and listening to advice.

These P-TECH students are paving new paths into today’s workforce.  But because its uncharted territory, forks in the road can come anytime.  I’ve seen anxiety and fear to be the greatest killer of dreams. Yet if students know someone is there for them, they will seek out much-needed guidance to overcome obstacles and navigate challenging situations. Through mentoring, my hope is to help students find confidence in themselves to achieve anything they want.

I hope you will be inspired to give mentoring a shot – either as a mentee or mentor. Personally, I plan to continue my journey as both.  It’s a wonderful way to keep learning and making the world a better place.

 

P-TECH, an innovative school model, connects secondary schools, colleges, and industries giving students a seamless pathway to college and career. The model integrates high school and college coursework, enabling students to earn a no-cost Associates degree in a range of STEM fields, including IT, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and finance.  In addition, P-TECH ensures readiness for the workplace through mentorships, site visits and paid internships provided by industry partners.

 

Interested in mentoring? Check on these resources:

  • IBM Activity Kits can help jumpstart your mentoring
  • Find a P-TECH school near you and work with your company to see how you can support
  • IBMers can visit the volunteer portal on IBM.org to find mentoring opportunities near you

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