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On Building Relationships - Mentorships and Friendships

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

We started the session with Adiba reminding us of the remarkable power of reading. She talked about how Enid Blyton’s world filled her childhood with colours and helped her overcome experiences of bullying in school. Nadiya opened our minds to the glory of the mountains, with a powerful punchline: why should boys have all the fun?! She wants us, young women, to conquer the mountains for the sun shines brightest from the peak of mountains.

In our workshop with Anita Guha, she coached us on how to navigate our professional terrains with ‘mentors’ as guiding lights. She walked us through the 3Es of the Developmental Model for Career Advancement: education, exposure and experience. The 3Es can be used as a tool of self-reflection and evaluation to see how far you have come and where you are headed to. Our careers are a combination of ‘who I know’ and ‘what I know’ - both a part of our career spectrums. The former opens the doors and serves as an inspiration; the latter helps you sustain. This is also a good time to sit back and contemplate the whos and whats that have helped us reach here. Perhaps, that one teacher in your school who was so dedicated to teaching a particular subject that you fell in love with and eventually pursued it. Or your college senior that held your hand when you were a fresher and acquainted you with the college and the new city. Ensure that you pay it forward and make that difference in someone else’s life!

Mentorships, if done right, can be lasting and enriching relationships. Most of us, as young professionals, feel as if we are trapped in a labyrinth and can feel dejected. This is where our mentors, with their experience and acumen, step in and offer us a bird’s eye view. When you are a mentee, you need to take ownership of the process for it has to be about you. Walk into this relationship with high energy and enthusiasm, and build that network. It is a relationship built on reciprocity and you need to add value to it - both in terms of means and ends. If you don’t have a mentor yet, ask yourself what’s stopping you. Are you too scared to pop that question? If yes, imagine how you’d feel if someone asked you to be their mentor. Exhilarating, isn’t it?

However, mentorship can be a power relationship, with a mentor having the ability to influence the mentee in multiple ways. With great power, comes even greater responsibility. In your role as a mentor, ensure that it’s about your mentee and not you. Asking questions is pivotal in mentoring relationships. As a mentor, engage in asking questions to your mentee, rather than simply telling them what to do. As a mentee, ask questions to the self and to your mentor too. While a good mentorship can build your confidence and capacities, bad mentoring can be equally detrimental. Anita Guha ended the workshop on the note that to be trusted, particularly in a mentorship, you have to be trusted.

Trust is often a prerequisite to long-term friendships, such as the ones we as LedBy Fellows, will be building with each other. However, trust-building doesn’t come easy - to build trust, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. We engaged in an exercise to graph the highs and lows in our life and share our life stories with the co-fellows. Although we come from diverse backgrounds, it was equally comfortable and distressing to see how our lives as women are connected. We heard stories of pain, grief and struggle, but what shone through was the resilience that we all shared. Although it was an emotional overload, we walked out feeling more connected as a cohort.

Just before we concluded the session, we had two more presentations. Ambarin introduced us to her mother’s modest fashion business, Rose Paisley (@rosepaisleyridas on Instagram). Her mother’s story highlighted how it’s never too late to afresh and chase our dreams. Ambarin helps her mother out with social media marketing and that’s where you see some reverse mentoring happening! Aashna’s presentation highlighted the importance of playing. As we grow up, we lose touch with our inner child and deem the games we loved playing as kids mundane. She nudged us to find happiness in our mundane routines, for all work and no play will make us dull. Aashna gave us a 5-day challenge to take ten minutes of our day and engage in ‘childish’ games. I invite you to participate in this challenge and to freely express your playfulness. Quoting Nadiya again, why should boys have all the fun?

Muda Tariq is a Led By Fellow 2021. She is currently pursuing a post-graduate degree in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding. Muda graduated with majors in Political Science and a minor in Economics in 2020 from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi.

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