“A mentor plays a crucial role in being able to gain that sense of self belief, even if you don’t completely believe in yourself.” –Chris Rodrigo, PACE and Stepping Into alumnus, PACE Lead at KPMG
Our Winter Employability Series explored the benefits of mentoring with employers and students with disability.
Mentors said that the AND programs were a satisfying and unique way to meet, teach and support students with disability.
“The reward of being able to offer your experience to someone else is priceless, particularly for those of us who haven’t had that opportunity to get that kind of guidance when we entered the workforce.” – Anna Spiteri, Communications at ANZ and Abilities Network Co-Chair at ANZ
PACE Mentees said they gained valuable insights into the daily operations of organisations and industries. Mentees got great advice and learned about different roles and departments. Chris, a PACE alumnus, said that one of the most valuable parts of having a mentor was being able to clear up anomalies.
“I think it gave me opportunities that I never thought of or dreamt of… I had this crazy idea about aspects of banking and the law. I didn’t know how to make that work, I didn’t know what the internal dynamics were within these industries” – Chris Rodrigo, PACE and Stepping Into alumnus, PACE Lead at KPMG
Share experiences and pass on valuable knowledge
One of the most valuable ways that mentors can contribute is through passing on information and job seeking skills. Whether it be through mock interviews, revising cover letters, or advising mentees of suitable job avenues, mentors can improve their mentees’ performance in the job application process.
Jack Milne’s mentorship experience increased his self-awareness and independence and made him more confident in his capabilities.
“I was able to learn SWOT analysis; what were my strengths in the workforce, what areas do I need to improve on, extra improvement activities through university or outside work… I felt like I was empowered with my ability to contribute to the workforce, which was great satisfaction, and to identify what strengths and weaknesses I can contribute to the workforce as a whole” – Jack Milne, SIP alumnus, Attorney-General’s Department
Students and jobseekers who have participated in AND programs say they have benefited by a real boost to their confidence.
“I was at uni unsure what I wanted to do with my career, and whether or not I can actually be employable. Just having a mentor and that safe space to talk about those fears really helped my confidence, really gave me guidance, and a clear sight of what I could do in the workplace. – James Leonard, PACE alumnus and mentor, Software developer at ANZ
Mentors can empower mentees by answering questions, debunking ideas, eliminating doubts, and clarifying uncertainties. When mentors with disability share their own experiences, mentees gain personal insights into the challenges and strategies applied by their mentor.
“It gives you an ability to empathise with your mentee, to understand how their own perception of their disability might shape their own consciousness, they might not necessarily believe that they can achieve what they want. As a mentee, I was in that position emotionally as well, but as a mentor, I can definitely use experience in a positive manner to maybe show them that it isn’t true.” – Chris Rodrigo, PACE and SIP alumnus, PACE Lead at KPMG
Sharing personal information
People with disability aren’t obliged to share information about their disability with an employer (unless it impacts on safety). When a person with disability is considering sharing their disability related information, mentors can help support and empower mentees’ by discussing the when, where, why, and how.
“I have learnt to just use your judgement to tell you when to bring it up and if it’s the right thing to do. If you are burned, like I have been before, then that tells you something about the employer, and that you probably won’t enjoy working there if you’re experiencing that in the interview. This is something you can talk about with your mentor, because even if they don’t have a disability, they may have worked with someone with disability, have family member with disability, etc.” – Anna Spiteri, Communications at ANZ and Abilities Network Co-Chair at ANZ.
By gaining insight into common workplace adjustments and policies and practices, mentees often feel more comfortable and confident in their job search and in sharing information. Mentors can also support mentees to be their best authentic self if they choose not to share.
Either way, mentors play an insightful role in shaping mentees’ perception of their disability and the workforce.
Challenge ways of thinking
Mentors gain new insights and perspectives about inclusion of people with disability from their mentees and often pause to reflect on their organisation’s efforts.
“The mutual benefits are very strong, and you learn a lot as both a mentee and mentor. Learn outside your own perspective as a mentor from someone who experiences challenges that you might not thought of. It forces you to relearn solutions and rethink problems that you may not have experienced in a long time” – Peter Wilson AM, AND chair, mentoring expert and author of Make Mentoring Work
When AND members participate in PACE (and Stepping into) the organisation benefits from the increased knowledge and experience of their people leaders gained through their deeper understanding gained through their mentee or intern. Mentors increase their experience and knowledge of accommodating difference and play a key role in their mentee’s career journey. The mentee benefits through all the knowledge, skills, insights, and experience of the mentor.
“A good mentor will spend 80% of the time listening to what you want and what you’re there for” – Peter Wilson AM, AND chair, mentoring expert, and author of Make Mentoring Work
Great mentoring relationships take time to establish, are built on respect, trust, and openness. Genuine relationships between mentors and mentees can turn into lifelong friendships.