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When I look back on my career, I’m especially grateful to a handful of colleagues who, at various moments, took the time to sit with me and share their real-world experiences. Those chats helped shape me. Their words inspired me to find purpose in my work.
Back then, I didn’t realize those experts were my mentors. But having someone to look up to, someone who saw things from a different perspective, helped guide me to reach my goals and get over the hurdles I faced.
Now, as senior vice president of Corporate Citizenship at Schneider Electric, I’m a keen supporter of mentoring, particularly with young people. Coaching across the generational divide enhances the diversity of our workforce.
The benefits of giving back
Guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Schneider Electric Foundation has a long-lasting commitment to opening doors for the next generation, offering them a better and more sustainable future. Through our foundation’s worldwide network, we’re encouraging more people to volunteer their time and connect with a young person near them. Mentoring is a uniquely beneficial way for volunteers to empower young people, giving them an additional support system and a greater chance at success.
And the benefits of mentoring are not reserved for the mentee alone. Mentors themselves gain a lot. Yet, for one reason or another, people still hold back.
For starters, many people don’t want to add another task to their busy day. And yes, it’s true, mentoring requires dedication, which may not suit everyone’s schedule. But it doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Sessions can be scheduled during breaks or over lunch. I always encourage others to find time for mentoring. It’s an enriching form of professional development.
You may also worry that you’re not sufficiently established in your career to be a mentor. If you’re young and just starting out, you may think you lack experience. But this is not the case. Having a shared perception of the world when supporting a younger mentee means you better connect with their experience than someone more seasoned might.
Another common assumption is that you can only mentor someone who shares a similar skill set or background as you. A mentor and mentee can still learn from each other without sharing the same career path. In most cases, new perspectives provide even more value.
Committed to delivering social impact
Many Schneider employees speak of the pride and fulfillment gained by devoting time to support our Foundation. Our online Volunteering platform helps individuals explore a range of projects and matches mentors and mentees according to each person’s talents, interests and availability.
In Brazil, for example, Schneider employees and the Comunidade Reinventando A Educaco program are helping vulnerable teenagers build self-confidence and transform their local neighborhoods.
Other junior employees from Schneider Electric in Canada have been involved in FIRST Robotic’s mentor-based STEM program. By sharing their early professional experience with others, particularly young women, they hope to inspire a more diverse range of young people to consider working in science and technology.
Other training and educational initiatives run by the Foundation help young people from low-income backgrounds gain energy management skills needed to boost their job prospects. Alongside specialized teaching institutes, schools and NGO partners, we empower future generations with the vocational training to become electricians and the entrepreneurial skills to create their own businesses.
For example, our “Spark Your Interest in Electricity” program in South Africa guides youngsters as they take their first steps in the electricity industry.
Progress and sustainability for all
Since its creation over 20 years ago, our Foundation’s work with local NGOs has left a mark on lives and livelihoods across the globe. More than 360,000 young people have taken part in our training sessions; boosting their chances of finding gainful employment and improving the living standards of entire communities.
And we want to go further in meeting our three main goals, as we believe that they each enrich one another. These include the challenge of training 1 million people, our commitment to double the hiring opportunities we offer to interns, apprentices and fresh graduates and our active engagement in mentoring initiatives, so that everyone—mentees and mentors—get involved.
Earlier in my career, I drew inspiration from the advice and guidance provided by my elders. Nowadays, it’s young people’s climate activism and environmental leadership that keeps me inspired. The youth of the world are a powerful force for change and progress. So, start mentoring a young person today and help them shape a better future.