Building Culture

I did my internship at a Ugandan company. It was such a burdensome experience for both myself (and the other interns) and the team that was in charge of training us. We were given computers and specifically asked to stay out of their way, and I’m right to say that period was probably my highest contribution to Facebook. Of course, being the big heads that we were (what interns aren’t?), we insisted on asking for work so that we could learn something. Our pleas fell on deaf ears, and so we were resigned to playing Spider Solitaire on bad days and Minesweeper on days when we felt good enough to handle such losses. About four to six months of a lot of that; short of sitting on a superior’s desk, no one wanted to be burdened by the interns (especially because they are not a permanent resource – which is funny because that is really the definition of an internship, nothing set in stone).

I don’t know if this is the case everywhere, but the stories I have heard are not encouraging.

Since I have only had the pleasure of living in Uganda, I am curious if this is the case everywhere in the world.

Why are knowledgeable and experienced people not willing to share their knowledge and experience with others? Why are people comfortable with being the only experts/go-to people in a certain area? Why would anyone want to die with all the knowledge and experience they have without having shared it with someone else?

One of the definitions of unemployment is the willingness to work without the ability to do the work; people want to get a job but do not have the skills and experience to perform well at that job. One way to acquire skills and experience is through mentorship.

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced/knowledgeable person passes on this information to an intern or a person that is new to the organization or industry.

It sounds like a simple enough concept; you are hired because you know something, while you go about doing that job, teach someone what you know. The benefits of doing this are quite a number, so again, it sounds like a simple enough concept but it’s obviously not. Those benefits I mentioned earlier, here they are;

For the mentor

  1. It helps re-energize your career, and creates more job satisfaction.
  2. It encourages you to share knowledge, which increases your sense of self-worth.
  3. It develops leadership and management skills.
  4. It gives you recognition for your knowledge, skills and experience.
  5. It strengthens your interpersonal relationship skills.
  6. It gives you exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches.

For the mentee

  1. It helps you learn first-hand, from the experience of others.
  2. It gives you guidance on professional development and advancement, which helps you take better control of your career.
  3. It increases self-confidence.
  4. It provides you with an important networking contact.

For the organization

  1. It shows the people within the organization that management is willing to invest in its employees. This grows employee loyalty, and will greatly reduce the turnover rate.
  2. It creates a more positive work environment.
  3. It strengthens leadership and coaching skills in employees that are mentors.
  4. It enables faster and better recruitment.
  5. It develops a culture of personal and professional growth.

Homework

  1. Have you been a mentor/mentee before, and what was your experience?
  2. Have you ever worked for an organization that has a mentorship programme?
  3. On a scale of 1-10, how simple was/is it to get a mentor?
  4. Do you think building a mentorship culture in Uganda will have a positive effect on some of the problems we face? Which problem(s) & how?

Please spare a minute to respond to the questions in the comment section, or pearlgahwera@gmail.com. I can’t wait to read your experiences.

 

Image Source.

Cover Letter: A First Impression
Breaking the Hand to Mouth Culture

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1 Response

  1. ayampatra says:

    I’ve been both mentor and mentee at some point and I’m not sure if this is how it works for everyone but I’ll share my experience regardless. First as a mentee, at my first job, I thought they’d bring me on before the person I was replacing left, so they could show me the ropes but nah, they sprung me into the deep end. I had to learn on my own. It was hard! Tough but I learned… I asked questions, i was in people’s faces whether or not they liked me and I learned…I tried things out, I failed (i was literally barked at on day 2 because someone thought I knew what a lower third was…smh) but i figured things out somehow, also maybe because this is something I wanted to do and I was hungry and open to learning. Years later, I found myself in a position where I had to mentor a group of people. I went through day 1 sharing with them about what it meant for them to be in that particular workspace. It was a great opportunity for them to learn something, build networks and grow but that they were also here like myself to work. That the reality is that a lot of people as much as they’d probably want to share what they know, do not have the time to come to you and say hey, so I want to teach you how to write a script, or how to write a content plan or here’s a golden spoon with some nice soup, open your mouth. It’s not going to happen! If people wanted to teach, they’d go to a lecture room. I went through day 2 showing them the basics and letting them try, that day I probably did only 10% of my own work. In the days to follow, it started to appear that they’d come in and sit and wait for the day’s lesson like they would a lecturer or teacher. I decided, I’d help by writing guidelines for what they were supposed to do every time they checked in and emphasised the importance for them to ask questions!! ASK! ASK! ASK! I’ll probably be frustrated and say you’re annoying but im not going to refuse to help you learn. Out of that group, I had only one girl come to my desk to annoy me with her questions, I could tell she wasn’t really interested in what she was doing but she wanted to get her share of the work done and leave -that’s something, it’s okay I think. She made many mistakes my God, she complained when things didn’t work in her favour or when emergencies happened at the time she wanted to be home at 6pm… but I know for a fact she learned something. She may not even know it but she’ll be adding a skill she learned on her CV. The rest, sat there for lectures that weren’t going to happen and were happy to serve the manager tea and being bullied to do whatever.
    I’ve also been that intern before -the one that waits around to be given the spoon. I didnt learn shit. I still don’t know how to fix an ATM if you asked me to. But while mentors do have a duty towards their mentees, understand that mentoring a person who shows no hunger or need to actually learn but somehow feel like they are entitled to this person’s time and wisdom or skills, is never going to learn. If you’re embarrassed about not knowing things and therefore you can not ask, you’re never going to learn. If you’re afraid of making mistakes and pissing people off, you’re never going to learn. A lot of young people in Uganda are also really happy to have a job or something to do -they’ll be anywhere as long as it gives them the “employed” status, whether or not they’re actually working, so we’re going to keep going with that cycle of impassionate people doing shit they don’t actually want to do -bad for them, bad for the organisation, bad for mentor. It’s important that when we do get the chance to speak to young people who are going through “the system” , we encourage them to have open conversations with themselves about what it is they really want to do, whether it’s in or out of the box and then go after it. You can have Michelle Obama on speed dial as your mentor but if you never pick up that phone to tell her wassup, she’ll never be able to help. Maybe she’ll call and ask how you’re doing at work, maybe you’ll lie or say some half truths -least you can do is never lie to yourself. *my jazz is starting to not flow properly and im writing a blog in your comments* but do you get my drift though. Mentor contributes the least percentage to this problem.

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