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Don’t have a mentor? Get one today and elevate your career

Day 3 of Discovery's Mentorship with Purpose Masterclass series focuses on the importance of mentors

The important thing about being a mentor is seeing more in someone than what that person sees in themselves.
The important thing about being a mentor is seeing more in someone than what that person sees in themselves.
Image: 123RF/Vadym Pastukh

On day 3 of Discovery’s Mentorship with Purpose Masterclass series, the discussion focused on the importance of mentorship. Sharing their experience were Nonkululeko Pitje, head of Discovery Healthy Company, and Gavin MacGregor, the director of the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation, Discovery’s flagship CSI project which assists rural youth to study health science degrees as a method of staffing rural hospitals.

“If you’re on a career path and don’t have a mentor, find one,” says Pitje. Citing examples from her own career of more than 20 years, Pitje says a mentor can make the difference between an average career and an exemplary one.

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“A mentor is not just a role model, but someone who elevates you and guides you in your career so you can put yourself out there in areas you might not have thought about or thought you can access,” she says. “I’ve made it a discipline to be a mentor because I’ve walked the journey and I understand that guidance is valuable. I still have a mentor myself, which is helpful in both professional and personal circumstances.

“Businesses play a huge role in creating avenues and partnerships, an environment that is fertile for mentorship. But, importantly, people have to be bold and put up their hands, say that they need a mentor.”

While formal channels are important, Pitje says mentoring can also be as simple for mentors to identify someone in their areas who is on a solid trajectory, and do informal coaching. “In informal cases, I will notice someone, have a coffee, tell them that I am watching their journey and nudge them at the right times. It can start out as an email from an experienced leader saying, ‘You know I am here and you can reach out to me’.” 

Understanding the mentorship relationship

Mentors should not overload themselves and make choices to mentor responsibly, says Pitje.

“Personally, I receive many requests to mentor and I have to be discerning about where I can help out. The responsibility of a mentor is to work out whether you are best positioned to add value for this person, in what capacity, and at this particular point in their career. If not, you need to guide them to an alternative,” she says.

According to Umthombo’s MacGregor: “Mentorship is based on developing significant relationships with people first. And why we do it is that young people have new ideas and energy but often lack experience. Older people have lifelong experience and that is an opportunity to be harnessed.”

“The important thing about being a mentor is seeing more in someone than what that person sees in themselves. You should be able to see other aspects of their lives where there is huge potential they may not be accessing.”

He says being a mentor is a relational effort. “It may start out being formal, through corporates among others, but it really works out when there is a relationship between the mentor and mentee.”    

Discovery’s Mentorship with Purpose Masterclass series continues until July 2 2021. Highlights from the classes will be available on Discovery’s social media platforms. #DSYMentorship #InsideDiscovery

This article was paid for by Discovery SA.

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