Do not reject them, direct them

06 September 2019 | Columns

Chaze Nalisa

Many graduates are being released into a rather daunting and economically wearisome environment, where a lack of employment in industries is the order of the day. Finding employment within the first year or two after graduation has never been an easy process for most people. This is even truer in today’s dwindling economy, which is seeing more and more retrenchments with the crack of each new day.

As a human resources (HR) consultant, I have been approached by hundreds of young people seeking employment or at the very least internships (without pay), because “all I want to do is keep busy and not sit around doing nothing”. I applaud people with such an attitude, but there are others who are still not ready to take a different route to employment than the traditional one that many others, in a once favorable economy, were fortunate enough to take.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a young lady that recently graduated from one of our local universities. She informed me that she was seeking an internship. I told her there was no internship available, at which point I expected her to say “thank you”, turn back towards the door and leave. However, she did the opposite.

She first smiled, gestured at a chair next to her and asked me if she could have a seat. I may have frowned a little; not in anger, but with curiosity about what it was she wanted to discuss that required her to sit down. I politely allowed her to have a seat and placed my hands on the table, while leaning towards her, as if to prompt her to speak. She smiled and said: “Madam (not my favourite salutation) Chaze, your LinkedIn posts are very motivating. I read them all the time. You are the right person to mentor me.”

At the time, I must say, I was flattered, but I was immediately overwhelmed by the thought of mentoring her. My extremely busy schedule was at the forefront of my thoughts and concerns. However, I decided to be even more polite and asked her what she wanted mentorship in.

Her face instantly lit up, because in her mind the question implied that I had already agreed, which I had not (yet). As she started to take me through the list of things she wanted me to mentor her in, while referencing why she believed I was the right person to expose her to them, I started to have flashbacks of myself in her position, not too long ago.

I immediately felt a deep sense of responsibility in contributing towards this young lady’s potential and success. In that same moment, I recalled a meme that I recently came across. It said: “Be the person you needed when you were an amateur.”

I realised if there was ever a turning point in my own career, it was in that moment. I further realised that it takes nothing else but a few hours in a month to add greatness to my own industry. That is exactly how I view mentorship; it is about adding more greatness and spreading skills to others. Mind you, it was not the first time I mentored someone; there was just something different about this request, something more profound. Although the young lady came for an internship, hoping for a job, she tried her luck by asking for mentorship instead, which she was successful at.

She did not give up because of ‘rejection’; she sought direction (and guidance). Imagine if experienced people out there took the time to offer others some direction, as they walk a path that someone with experience has already walked. Do not reject them, rather direct (mentor) them.

I also want to encourage young graduates and professionals that when you approach people for assistance, approach them with solutions and don’t just dish out your problems to them, while expecting them to fix them for you. Although we are facing challenging times, the opportunities are plenty.

Be the person you needed when you were an amateur, because in some places and situations you are still an amateur, and may need direction too.

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