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Mentorship Practice on the Go – Introduction

I will be publishing a series of articles under the main Theme: Mentorship Practice on the Go Series. Even though the term Mentorship originates from the Greek mythology, when Telemacus assigned his friend Mentor to take care and guide his son in his absence due to the war, it is clear that many nations, including the Africans, practised mentorship without labelling it as such. I have grown under mentorship, and continued to evolve positively as a result of many elders who guided me. They just did not call themselves mentors. I am struggling to remember a single phase in my life when I did not have somebody playing a role. Hence the title: Mentorship on the Go.

The series will be based on the various development and growth stages that we all go through. This is the best way to demonstrate that we all owe it to many people that played roles in our lives but were never referred to as our mentors.

Think of your early childhood development. Who drove you to your kindergarten and what role did they play in performing this function? Did they just keep quiet and drove you to the centre? Did they just come back in the afternoon, picked you up and drove you home, or did they engage you in a dialogue daily on how your day was? I am sure you remember that they became your friends and had interest in your daily programme, and they engaged in dialogue and conversation with you. What do you think you gained from such engagements? So, mentorship conversations on the go took place, not so?

As a young adult you became the focus of every member of your village, especially in the African villages. The Africans have an idiomatic expression that is so profound: “It takes the whole village to bring up a child”. This is so true. Once you are born, you become the child of the village. Every elderly has the duty to guide you, irrespective of your standing in the village. You are the son or daughter of the soil, and therefore everyone’s responsibility. Nobody would want to fail the village. They would do all it takes to make you a success. So, Mentoring on the go, a 24/7 process, takes place without asking questions.

When you proceed to school you find the village leaders even more arranged to govern your school. There are many activities driven by the school principal and his/her team of teachers. They can only implement the programmes that would have been approved by the school committee. In South Africa this committee is called School Governing Body (SGB). As to whether they are still doing what is traditionally expected of them is another discussion. However, the principle is still relevant. So, mentorship continues into the schooling phase of our development and growth.

From schooling we proceed to the university. This is always a big jump for any person. In fact at this stage Mentorship is no longer a nice to have but a necessity. This phase makes or breaks the youth and young adults. If at this stage a person does not have a mentor, one can be certain that a lot will go wrong. The university is the last phase before transitioning into the world of work. If one has chosen the wrong study direction and has not embarked on career choice initiatives, a dead end could be reached easily. One cannot afford career choice mistakes at this stage. A mentor and mentee must contract accordingly at this stage. The stakes are too high, uncertainties and fears of the unknown too intense. Once again, mentorship on the go is a necessity. If the student has to pay for the service of the mentor, let it be. The investment is worth it. The university life brings new complexity in the student’s life.

Many companies recruit future talent from the universities. There is an assumption that the university would have prepared the students for the world of work. Not all the universities have structured programmes and initiatives to prepare the students for the world of work. Some universities have Cooperative Education Departments, while others make it the student’s responsibility to figure out how to transition to the world of work. This is unfortunate. However, most universities have Cooperative Education Departments that run Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) initiatives. This is a form of mentorship on the go and it is based on the students’ choice to register as WIL participants. The WIL Programme by its own nature is a Mentorship Programme on the go. It is a transition and therefore part of the student development journey. Hence it qualifies as a mentorship on the go.

On entering the world of work, one realizes that life can be too serious. One has been transitioning from one phase to another without realizing that the seriousness of life was rising. You are slowly left alone to take serious life decisions, but nobody talks to you about it. The assumption is that you are made aware. The reality is that all remain assumptions. The person defaults into auto pilot mode and everything depends on luck. Through this mentorship on the go series, I would like to bring this to the attention of everybody that this phase must not be left to chances.  It must be consciously planned.

At the world of work the reality always dawn on the entrants. It is unforgiving world. It is in this phase that the individual start questioning whether he/she had made a good studies and career choices. Many entrants go into depression as they become disappointed. Until now they have been receiving rosy picture. This is challenged for the first time. If the mentor is not attuned to the difficulties of this phase, the protégé is lost forever.

There comes a time when those who have entered the world of work realize that they are not meant to be employed but become entrepreneurs. Not all of us are meant to become employees. However, entrepreneurship qualities are difficult to confirm. You need a specialist entrepreneurship mentor to assist you in confirming whether you have what it takes to become self-employed or not. Transitioning from employment to entrepreneurship is a huge jump and requires mental strength. Often, such a decision requires consultation with your mirrors (close family members, etc.) who may not necessarily agree with your decision and support you. You need a strong conviction to implement such a decision. You will have to deliver success to win your mirrors over. You may become isolated and left alone in the process. If you are not strong you may lose close friends and mirrors.

Whether you are employed or a practicing entrepreneur, you will want to belong to a professional body, which could be a chamber of commerce or a pure professional body. Such organizations have their own culture and expect you to fit in their practices. Since you need to belong somewhere and network with like- minded professionals you will need mentorship by a seasoned member of the professional organization.

You cannot always put your interests in front. This is the most important stage of your professional development. You must be seen to be driven by factors other than money. Mentorship at this stage is based on the higher purpose of life. You cannot gamble with it. A mentor must be a matured somebody who has already proven himself/herself beyond any doubt.

As you become the brand and opinion maker, you must play in the appropriate platforms. Among others you must consider writing opinion pieces in the form of articles, books, and public speaking. That means you are becoming the opinion maker, you are a master, and influencer. You are no longer pleading for the opportunity to make a contribution. You are the sought after subject matter expert. Your mentors are more of the source of reflection than telling you what to do. You are concerned about leaving the legacy that will inspire the generations after you. It is worth noting that even at this stage you still need mentorship on the go. This is to acknowledge that there will always be masters above you. That is the humility we must have and therefore encourage people in general not to ever believe that on their own they can make it in life. We are all qualified to be both mentors and mentees of others.

We are the Specialists in coaching, mentoring, advisory, facilitation, networking, consulting, and hosting of monthly dialogue the Lekgotla Way (the African Dialogue and Conversation Methodology). For further information visit our site, or contact my Office Manager, Ms Portia Diketane, at or Tel. +27 (0) 11 974 9308

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