We are having a beautiful summer here in Canada; and if you are reading this Guiding post during it – you are quite the dedicated Guider. You are the member I want to speak to today. All Guiding members are dedicated and great – you won’t find yourselves a louder cheerleader than this girl – but there are only so many hats we can all wear in the organization.
I am looking for the members that might want to take on just one more thing, or perhaps a member looking to take on something additional this Guiding year. This may be as small as a pebble (but we all know what happens when a rock is gently thrown into the water: its impact creates a circle, then another, and then another, as it gracefully glides on the surface). Today, I am looking to talk to members about mentorship.
You may think, “Oh look, Guider Sarah has a keyword to throw around,” or, “someone wants to talk about something trendy!” But the truth is, mentorship is something that I truly believe in. Something I have experienced and reaped the rewards from being part of for years.
I am very fortunate – I have had a mentor for 11 years. During my first week of school for an Advanced Diploma in Public Relations, I was asked to write an essay about my dream job. The professor took that essay and paired me with Ms. Mary Somers, a mentor. And while over the course we had to interview our mentors, meet with them, and seek advice, my mentorship turned into a friendship. Over a decade later we still meet for lunch and coffee, I still seek her advice, and in an awesome moment in my career, she asked me in to speak with her class. It’s the closest I will ever get to “the grasshopper becoming the teacher” moment.
Mentorship in Guiding can be the same. I was once a young Guider: Idealistic. Energetic. Unassuming. But let’s not hide the elephant in the room under a campfire blanket: there are many times when being a new Guider and coming into a District/Area meeting is a lot less empowering and more like a clichéd high school movie. Many Guiders are leaders with their friends, their daughters’ friends’ moms, or have their own clique of friends who went through the program together and now run a unit together. A new Guider could easily be intimidated.
On the flip side of this, how many leaders are recruited by guilt? “We may have a unit for your daughter if you want to be a leader.” These leaders may enter a Guiding year with no background about the organization whatsoever, but are there to ensure that Girl Greatness stays in their community.
And hey, what about that seasoned Guider who wants to ensure that her girls have a great year, but doesn’t know about the latest social media craze or trend? Even newer Guiders can be mentors.
All these circumstances happen and need leaders to step up to be mentors, because we all need to know that we have a resource to turn to (a human one. Google and the Girl Guides of Canada website don’t count here).
So what would mentorship look like in your Guiding community? I don’t think it needs a formal process and I don’t think it needs to be a certain amount of time set aside each week. I think it is organic, grassroots. It depends on the relationship, the personalities. And to me, mentorship can mean shadowing, an occasional check-in coffee, or a Facebook post to offer advice. Mary and I were once only asked to work together on a project, now I can’t imagine not checking in with her regularly to ask her opinion, seek her advice, talk about the news of the day.
If you are thinking that you can spare a pebble of time this Guiding year and you see a leader (new, returning, life-long member) who you could offer mentorship too:
- Slip her your number/email and let her know you can help in area X, or any time she has a question. You may not hear from her for a while, but I guarantee she will reach out to you at some point.
- If you hear about an awesome guest speaker she brought in, or a fantastic camp she held, use the Area Directory and call/email her to say ‘Good Job’! I still have kept from about nine years ago an email from my District Commissioner telling me what a great group of Brownies I had, and how much she enjoyed seeing what I was doing with them. It helps remind me that even when I have a bad meeting, I am doing things right and I have someone who I can turn too if I ever needed advice/help.
- Sit next to her at meetings and engage in conversation. Learn more about her and you might find a way you can mentor each other.
Guiding is about building relationships and learning leadership skills, for both girls and leaders. Mentoring a member can do both and can leave a legacy in your Guiding community.
By guest blogger Sarah Lyon of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Check out her own blog ‘Sarah Smells the Roses‘, as well as some of her more recent blog posts for Girl Guides of Canada: