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If we ask ourselves when did we heard of a mentor for the first time or when did we had our first contact with a mentor, the answer, if and rarely positive, will usually be at the end of high school.

The concept of mentoring is often mentioned, but it is generally linked to graduation, final papers at college studies or research papers. However, mentoring is not only that. A true mentoring relationship is much more.

On your professional, but also on your individual path and growth, you have surely found yourself in a position to ask yourself: "How can I be convincing at the interview?" or "How should I do this presentation?" or "How do I make the right decision?" or "What is best thing to do in this situation?”. The questions are always there, but how to get to the right or at least good answers that will lead us to the final goal? In such situations, we need someone who already passed the way we're walking on right now, to help us to find our own true path. It is not easy, but it is helpful and you feel secure when you get advice or at least an example of what should or should not do.

The new century has brought many new challenges but in the same time many new opportunities. Women are facing with additional barriers and challenges, both in their professional and in their private life, which is why it is necessary to help each other, to share our knowledge, to express solidarity with each other and to work together - because together we are stronger. The key to successful mentoring relationship lies in good and thought-out plan. It is important to invest ourselves in the concept of mentoring and to become a part of it.

Through mentoring knowledge can be shared, advice can be given, support could be provided. How much will we get depends only on the mentors and mentees. In the model of mentoring anyone can participate and have opportunity to benefit from the mentoring throughout life. The quality of the mentoring relationship depends on the way in which the structure of the mentorship is determined and if it’s a result of clear objectives to be achieved, because this structure is the best possible way to provide a sense of purpose as well as a protective frame for the young and insecure. Also, it is important to establish balance between the need to provide broad knowledge and the need for support.

The program Share Your Knowledge - Become a Mentor is led by this. The model of mentoring has been widely promoted internationally and successfully implemented in several countries and in almost all spheres of society, from science, over business to politics. Taking into account our environment and social conditions, the model has been slightly adjusted to the target group in the Republic of Serbia.

The initiative in Serbia came from three leaders in their fields who participated in the mentoring program in the U.S.A and organized Mentoring walk after returning to Serbia. These walks are now taking place on the same day in mid-November, and are organized by Vital Voices.

Since 2010, the program Share Your Knowledge - Become a Mentor is a part of this global program which now includes much more than just Mentoring walks and represents a continued six-month work of the mentors and mentees.

The program Share Your Knowledge - Become a Mentor was launched with the idea that successful and professional women, leaders in different professions, share their knowledge and experience with young women with similar interests and thus contribute to creating opportunities for these young women in order to achieve a step forward to improve their career and to also lay a sound basis for future long-term cooperation.

In the period, from June 2010 to July 2014, the program Share Your Knowledge - Become a Mentor gathered 97 mentors and 101 mentees. During this time, mentors and selected mentees were in regular contact, exchanging experiences and meeting periodically. In addition to their meetings, roundtables and workshops were organized, where participants exchanged views and program experiences, discussing various topics.

Through this program women's solidarity is strengthen, good role models for young women starting their careers are promoted, contacts for future cooperation are enabled, and new ideas for projects are created.

A good mentoring relationship means that the mentor and the mentees are equal and that they both, through dialogue and exchange of views, can learn important facts and details to advance their development and relationship. Mentoring relationship includes experienced individuals, providing advice and guidance for less experienced professional young women, in a defined or undefined timeframe. Educational institutions often use these programs to promote better and more mature democratic society.

However, the mentoring relationship is not a "one-way street." Through mentoring relationship, mentors and not only mentees gain knowledge and experience, improve existing and develop new skills, often encouraged precisely by mentees. Possibility to expand the network of contacts is opened, as well as space for reflection and consideration of current issues; they get a new view of ambitions, talents and opinions of a younger generation, who may have gone through different system of education and training. This contributes to the personal of the mentors who become confident that they do the right thing helping and invigorating younger generations which are ready and eager to upgrade and learn.

Uses and benefits of mentoring programs may be multiple, but only if the given opportunities are used in the best way. It can serve as a good platform and basis for establishment of a network, thus reinforcing the connection and exchange experiences and promoting sharing knowledge. Of course, the established mentor and mentees relationship is, also a channel of knowledge transfer which improves individuals. How will the mentoring program look like depends on the academic, professional, personal interests, general advice and the guiding idea of participants. The mission and goals are to strengthen professional development. It can also help to promote the exchange of knowledge and experience between mentors and mentees. Active relationships are continued after the formal ending of the program.

In recent years, the concept of mentoring is increasingly being used to support personal and professional development of women. It was been confirmed that positive experiences of former mentees affected them to become good and dedicated mentors themselves. This of course does not mean that men do not need to have a mentor in many situations.

It’s important to know that the power does not come from knowledge you retain for yourself, but from the selfless sharing with others. Consider with whom you can share all the knowledge you have, and to whom it will mean a lot. Also, think of the knowledge and skills you would like to acquire and from whom you can (or would like to) seek personal and professional support.

Svetlana Stefanovic


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