I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2023 Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough Supporters Evening held at the Fancy Cow in Blenheim.
I was asked to share my experiences being a Career Navigator Mentor and what motivated me to become a mentor.
Below is what I had to say...
Kia ora tatou
As Kelvin said my name is Amber and I am about to embark on my 3rd year of being a Career Navigator Mentor. But I’m just a baby mentor when you sit me next to some of the others in the programme who have been there since its inception in Marlborough.
I moved to Marlborough 4 years ago to spend more time with my nephews and my sister, some of you may think you’re seeing double tonight, that sister has been working for the Graeme Dingle Foundation for years, starting as a Kiwi Can leader after she had the boys and she’s now the programme coordinator for Stars.
We are originally from Oamaru, famous for Whitestone buildings, Steampunk and Ritchie McCaw, we were both avid rock climbers in our youth, in fact my first exposure to Graeme Dingle happened when I was in the 4th form (that’s year 10 for those of you that are a touch younger than me). He came to Oamaru to teach a climbing clinic – so my connection goes way back!
I have had a varied career culminating in my current role as a business owner.
Part of my motivation for becoming a mentor came from a few different places: obviously my family ties to the organisation, but also due to my experiences coming through school and trying to answer THAT question “what do you want to be when you grow up” – I'll let you in on a secret – I still don’t know the answer to that question and it gives me instant sweaty palms and a mind freeze if you were still to ask me that or any variation of that question.
This mind freeze happened from the pressure of trying to answer that question, it started around 4th form, “what do you want to be when you grow up”,” you need to know so you can pick the appropriate subjects” – and the school made it seem like the end of the world if you couldn’t make that decision at 14 – hence the sweaty palms and anxiety I get from that question.
This anxiety came from several sources:
· Pressure from the school
· Pressure from family & family friends (the older generation)
· Pressure from myself.
I was in accelerated classes; it was expected that I go to University and It still pains my father to this day that I didn’t.
Now, apart from family, the person at school charged with helping us to answer that question is the careers advisor and at my school she wasn’t much help to me. In fact, she advised many of us to become teachers and then 3 years later when Gem went through, the same thing - teachers.
Now, I’m not sure if there was perhaps a teacher shortage at that time or whether she was on some kind of commission for the number of students she sent to T-Col. I didn’t know much but I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher and everything I did think I wanted to do, she advised against it.
Now, I used to think that she did a terrible job, but the reality is, she was advising over 600 kids, one person, 600 kids. That’s pretty huge!
This is why the Graeme Dingle Foundation and in particular the Career Navigator programme is so important, we provide extra resource and support to students, when their Careers Advisors are stretched thin.
So, my motivation for doing this is to ensure that the students that choose to apply for the programme don’t go through the struggle I did.
It’s pretty awesome, because you don’t know what you don’t know – right?
We take them out on worksite visits, they get to see all the positions that exist within an organisation, these worksite visits allow them to be emersed in the workplace and ask all the questions that spring to mind when they are there.
This helps them add options to their potential career lists that they never imagined but also, just as important, cross things off their lists that they thought would be awesome but because of a worksite visit they have realised that perhaps that’s not for them after all.
The workplaces we go to, are awesome, they provide all access and if any of you are here tonight – thank you, you have no idea how much your openness is appreciated.
We also do other things with the students, they start the year with a team building kayak trip in Anakiwa with Aaron and his team at Sea Kayak Adventures, I'm not going to lie, this is a pretty fun day out, but it has a purpose, the students are forced to get to know and converse with a bunch of oldies that are total strangers.
Then over lunch there is a bunch of team building stuff so they have to learn fairly swiftly how to work in a team with a bunch of people they don’t know because not only are the mentors new, most of the students are from other schools.
One of the first classroom sessions that happens is personality profiling, this insight can help highlight some potential careers to the students that they had never thought of, but that are perfect for their personality type.
The mentoring sessions throughout the middle two terms are 3 mentors to 5 or 6 students, so the ratio is about 1:2. In these sessions the mentors create lessons based on their students interests and become a general sounding board and advice dispensary for the mentees and their questions.
Later in the year, we work through applying for jobs, creating an application letter, CV and interview prep. Followed by mock interviews, which generally everyone is terrified of, but after its done they are immensely grateful for the experience.
The last thing that happens for the year is the graduation night and I’m sure a few of you in the room have been to one. This is again a really scary time for the students, they have to give a 2-minute speech about their experience in the programme.
For the mentors, I’m pretty sure this graduation night is why they keep coming back year after year.
Teenagers – they don’t say a lot, they do open up a bit more throughout the year, but as a mentor, you do wonder if you are getting through to them and making a difference.
Graduation night is where you find out they have been listening and if they mention in their speech, just one thing that you have taught them, it’s all worthwhile.
And that’s when we know as mentors, we will be back next year to do it all again with another bunch of students.
So, if you are considering becoming a mentor – I highly recommend it!