At the end of our first mentorship programme and the dawn of the second edition, we would like to take a look at the other side of the story. How does a mentor view the development of their mentee, our generation of starters and their obstacles and opportunities?
Nicole Zandee is one of the first women who became a Librae Mentor. She has been a pioneer in top positions in the public sector, being a key decision maker in the field of public security. Having had plenty of experience in navigating an ambitious, busy lifestyle, she was thrilled at the prospect of helping the next generation with their personal development. “Marjolein and I took our time to get to know each other, and we plan to continue our calls after the official ending of the mentorship programme.”
During these times, self-reflection is truly unavoidable, so Nicole recommends to make use of it. “What brings you energy and enjoyment? Dare to explore those ventures, otherwise you will never get a chance to truly get to know yourself.” Having a mentor can help with knowing the right questions to ask and being more aware of the choices you’re making, and why you are making those choices.
Nicole admits that she recognizes Marjolein’s doubts from when she was just starting out herself. “ And I am still learning! I recently changed careers to being a judge, but even before that I always felt like there were new things for me to learn. In a way, it is comforting, because it means that you get to focus more on the path rather than the destination.”
This is what she recommends to her mentee as well: Choices are never truly permanent, which alleviates some of the pressure from choosing a certain direction. “Either way, you’re going to be learning and adjusting course along the way.” Such adjustments also apply to the set of values you use to weigh your decisions. Growing up, you develop certain survival mechanisms and frames of reference that dictate your perspective. While experiencing new things during your studies, career or when other life-changing events occur, you will likely adjust them to fit your new way of life.
It is very normal and healthy to take moments to reflect and see whether your values and goals still align with the context of your life, and if they don’t, how you can adjust them from then on.”
Nicole emphasizes to keep listening to your gut and trust your inner strength. “After a while, you usually already feel whether a place is right for you, as you have plenty of past experiences to guide that intuition.” It is alright to make mistakes, as the baggage you carry gives meaning to your life and provides an opportunity to get to know yourself more deeply.
When asked what she sees as the biggest challenge for this generation of starters, Nicole replies with fervent passion. “Challenges? I think the world is your oyster! These young women have a technical education and all the tools they need to tackle society’s many challenges, from the climate crisis to our healthcare system.” According to Nicole, the main thing holding young women back is humility and insecurity, which she noticed among several mentees at the Librae Circle meetings. “There are so many opportunities for women to make a difference, as we are still underrepresented in high-ranking positions. Don’t be afraid to set an example for the next generation!”
However, Nicole also recognizes that dedication and ambition requires a level of sacrifice. Maintaining a good work-life balance is a slippery slope, especially when you are passionate about your career. “As a woman, you have to fill many positions outside of the workplace as well. It is easy to lose sight of the balance, and you don’t always find the time to talk or even think about these matters.” Honest reflection and having an insightful conversation partner is therefore one of the key benefits of having a mentor and a circle of like-minded young women. As you get to know one another and share your current ambitions, you actively dedicate yourself to them, because you are held accountable by others. Still, Nicole advises to remember the alternative choices you have: it never hurts to take a moment to reflect on the values and reasoning behind your current path. A mentor can help bring to light the different choices and where they might take you, but the reins are still in the hands of the mentee.
I can help my mentee along the way, but they choose which turns they eventually decide to take according to what feels right.
The second edition of the Mentorship Programme launches this February. Keep an eye on our channels to see how the mentees develop their career roadmap as well as themselves alongside a seasoned professional! Get to know the Librae Circle of Mentees, and perhaps you will be inspired to also find a mentor that matches your interests next edition.