Being a mentor in the I Have a Dream program was an interesting experience where I met other fascinating mentors and mentored two young people. To mentor is to help mentees plan, prioritize, and enable clarity with respect to their ideas, and do so with the spirit of openness. Having said this, mentorship is not a one-way street. It is always a two-way learning process. That we learn from our mentees just as much as they learn from us, is something I had experienced as a mentee during my participation in the Fortune/U.S. Department of State Global Women's Mentoring Partnership Program in 2011.
All of us need mentors, and in the past I have had such guidance that has inspired me. For me the I Have a Dream program was meaningful because it helped me recall instances of time I had spent with my mentors in the U.S. and the openness with which they had imparted knowledge. Interactions with my mentees helped me reminisce the long-forgotten stages I had passed through that the mentees were going through now. I view the I Have a Dream program as an opportunity to “pay it forward,” something that was constantly emphasized and reiterated by my mentors as well as peers during the exchange program.
A diverse set of mentees with different ideas and dreams helped me see things from their perspective, which many-a-times we don’t as we get comfortable in the positions we take in our everyday lives. However, my mentees were at critical junctures in their lives and got busy with other priorities. One of my mentees, Shahadutt, needed a job and had to refocus his energy on work and could not continue with the mentorship aspect of the program. In the case of my second mentee, Shanchui, I helped her though the process of planning for her NGO project but she got busy with exams and other academic commitments. They had hectic schedules and, unfortunately, it did not go beyond a couple of meetings.
A relationship of this kind cannot be limited to the duration of the program. I formed lasting bonds with my mentors and am still in touch with them. Mentoring and dreams cannot be straitjacketed, Shahadutt was determined to follow his passion of working in the field of lighting and production for events. So, irrespective of whether he has been able to implement his idea or not, I would really like to know where he is a year later with respect to the dream he pursued. Similarly, if Shanchui reaches out later, I will be happy to help her in every possible way. Equations like this channels one’s inner mentor and one also feels good about having touched someone’s life in a way that is meaningful to them.
Stuti Jalan is Founder and Managing Director - Crosshairs Communication. She participated in the Fortune/U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership, which connects emerging women leaders from around the world with members of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Leaders for a month-long program, in 2011. She mentored Shanchui and Shahadutt through the USG-sponsored I Have a Dream leadership and mentoring program for International Exchange Alumni.