When a mentor and her mentee learn from one another
Recent National University of Singapore business administration graduate Jolyn Moh, 23, and her mentor, NUS Business School alumna Elizabeth Eu, a certified professional executive coach in her 50s, tell TODAY what they have learned from one another.
For undergraduates and young graduates starting out in their career, having a mentor can be a valuable resource. Experienced mentors can guide their young charges towards their career aspirations, help them see beyond their degrees and consider fresh opportunities in the workplace.
Here, recent National University of Singapore business administration graduate Jolyn Moh, 23, and her mentor, NUS Business School alumna Elizabeth Eu, a certified professional executive coach in her 50s, tell TODAY what they have learned from one another.
Are there some issues that you should raise / not raise with your mentor?
Jolyn Moh (JM): Depending on the relationship established, I think there are parameters that you formulate at the start. I think you can and will ask different sets of questions depending on how the relationship develops later.
We would usually check on my status in school / career to see if I have reached any challenges or the progress towards my goals.
Elizabeth would take into consideration my psychological and emotional well-being to make sure I am doing okay and that this is what I aspire to do.
That is helpful to know that I am doing okay from the perspective of someone experienced.
Elizabeth Eu (EE): I think it is important for the mentor to respect the privacy, dignity and decisions of the mentee.
The issues for discussion should be those raised and initiated by the mentee.
While the mentor needs to give direct and honest feedback, the boundary and depth of mentorship should be to the extent that the mentee permits.
Sensitive issues such as financial problems, sexual relationship and family conflict matters should be referred to professional counsellors.
What are some questions posed by Jolyn that Elizabeth has not been able to answer and how did both of you get around that?
EE: To be honest, I could not answer many of her questions. Our economic, social and technological environments have changed so much that what had worked for me when I was Jolyn’s age could no longer work for her.
Besides, no two persons will have the same skills, talent and personality traits. Hence, there are always areas where even if I have the answers they may not work for Jolyn.
In these situations, I would encourage and use open-ended inquiry questions to help her reflect on and explore her personal options and answers.
JM: Generally, many of our interactions revolve around understanding why I had those questions, and by extension, how should I resolve the root causes.
Most of the time, it was helpful to discover why I even had those questions in the first place and what are the next steps I should be taking.
One of the questions that I myself found a little bit harder to answer was choosing the job I want. This question involves a lot of self-awareness.
While Elizabeth may not offer an answer, our conversations help me understand myself better and this eventually aids in answering the question myself.
Interesting. Do you think the age gap between both of you helps / hinders the quality of the mentoring?
EE: I think there is value in mentoring regardless of age gaps. Different age groups provide different perspectives and learning experiences.
For our case, I was able to tap my experiences and ask relevant questions to guide Jolyn’s self-discovery.
JM: I think the experience my mentor has definitely helps in helping me to chart my future and gain insights on how I want to grow as a person.
How often do you keep in touch / meet?
EE: I recall we started initially meeting in person bi-monthly for the first six months. Subsequently, once the mentoring relationship is built and we have established mutual trust, we kept in touch informally through text messages and emails.
Now, we meet whenever there is a need for a deeper mentoring discussion. We also meet to celebrate successes and milestones.
JM: At the beginning, we met more often. As we understood our dynamics better, we could then have more flexibility in our mentoring relationship. For instance, we make it a point to keep in contact virtually, and arrange to meet when our schedules allow.
Jolyn, what are some instances where you found your mentor's advice particularly useful?
JM: One example was when I was sharing about my internship experience and how I did not have any supervision. I did not know if that was right and assumed it was a wrong company culture fit.
Elizabeth then asked me if I felt more like a freelancer than an intern and I agreed, then we dug further in that direction to later understand better why I feel a certain way and how I can change that.
Elizabeth advised me to speak to my boss, and that turned out well.
As it was the first time the company was employing an intern, it was not aware of how it should bring me on board.
I also shared my experience as an intern and my work scopes at other organisations to give my bosses a better understanding of how to work with interns.
After speaking to my boss, the firm attached me to another supervisor and I had more fulfilling work to embark on.
This incident was very empowering for me. I learnt that everyone has a voice and we need not be afraid that it is not the "right" thing to do.
Many times, if we do not do anything about our own lives and ask for what we want, the world simply will move on without us.
Elizabeth, what is one thing you have learned from mentoring Jolyn?
EE: Jolyn is an early adopter of technological tools and apps. She has introduced useful web-based tools to me through her creative use of them. Her energy to learn and apply not only new technology tools, but also literally anything that is new knowledge, is inspiring!
This is part of a series of career-related commentaries which TODAY will be running in partnership with the National University of Singapore Business School.