Caroline Shanley vividly remembers the first time she mentored in an ABCN program. ‘It was 2011 and I volunteered for a reading program for high school students. Even now, all these years later, I can visualise the excited faces of those young people experiencing a visit to the CBD for the first time. It really resonated with me,’ she says.
‘We forget how such a short amount of time can have such a huge impact.’
Fast forward 10 years and Caroline has not only continued to mentor every year since, but has also experienced almost every ABCN program. She is also our ABCN champion at American Express Australia.
‘Mentoring on these programs are definite highlights in my career,’ she says. ‘Firstly, it is something that allows us to give back and pay it forward, and secondly, I feel proud of the fact that the company I work for encourages this work.’
This is a sentiment shared widely among our mentors. Of the 1,623 mentors involved in our 2020 programs, 100% reported they felt proud that their company is part of ABCN. In addition, 92% said their mentoring/coaching skills improved as a result of the program, and 93% said their understanding of other generations and cultures grew.
‘Seeing the transition of not just the mentees, but also my co-workers is so rewarding,’ Caroline says. ‘It brings the humanity out in all of us and the exposure to different cultures and backgrounds is very grounding.’
Caroline acknowledges that 2020 was a test for everyone as COVID-19 forced the traditional face-to-face programs to move online.
‘The move to digital platforms was something new for a lot of us. But at the same time, a lot of our mentors don’t know any different. The programs translated well on screen and this generation is very comfortable with communicating on camera and video in a virtual world.’
Evaluations of our digital programs indicated that digital mentoring can be as impactful as its face-to-face counterpart, and opens up the potential to engage more staff no matter where they happen to be working. Our surveys show that the students who participated in digital programs in 2020 reported a 42% increase in their confidence using videoconferencing for conversations with professionals (from 46% before their programs to 88% afterwards).
It seems the screen isn’t a barrier to connection. ‘I still see a genuine desire from students to learn – and a genuine desire from the mentors to share,’ Caroline says. ‘Whether it’s face-to-face or online, it’s an investment of time that we will all reap in the future.’
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