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Trust Blog

Showing Up When It Counts: Helping Young People Transition to Adulthood through Mentorship

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By Tanja Hemme, Senior Manager Issues & Crisis Communications, Medical Devices EMEA and J&J Secondee to SOS Children’s Villages International

Sometimes we get stuck within our own world and we need to open new doors and see new horizons. Motivated by my ambition to gain new perspectives and help others, I embarked on a five-month Johnson & Johnson Secondment in September to support SOS Children’s Villages International at their headquarters in Austria. Having spent many years in the corporate sector, I was eager to put my skills to use in a new environment and help build the capacity of our partner on the front lines of care in a meaningful and sustainable way.

SOS Children's Villages is the largest non-governmental organization focused on supporting children without parental care and families at risk. The organization today runs 2,300 programs reaching more than a million children, young people and adults in 135 countries and territories. SOS Children's Villages adheres to the principle that every child grows best in a family environment, with loving parents or caregivers, living together with their siblings, in a place they can call home. SOS Children's Villages also works with communities, local partners and authorities to support disadvantaged families, thus preventing family breakdown.

Across the world, more than 70 million young people are unemployed, and many more do not earn enough to build a stable, independent life. Through the global YouthCan! initiative, SOS Children’s Villages draws on the expertise of multiple stakeholders and partners to provide young people with individualized, holistic support to help them manage their transition to healthy, independent adulthood.

In my new Secondment role as a Communication and Marketing Advisor to YouthCan!, I’m developing a corporate communication plan to create greater awareness and visibility of the initiative among existing and potential stakeholders. As part of the communications planning process, I spoke with Antonio Delgado, Program Director for Janssen’s GCI EMEA Fund, a partner of YouthCan!, who shared valuable insights about the program and his role as a mentor to Pedro* (*name has been changed).

Tanja: Why did you choose to volunteer as a mentor?
Antonio:Many of the young people who participate in YouthCan! are taking their first steps from school to the working world without the support and networks that families usually provide. For these young people, finding a job is even more critical since they don’t have the safety net and economic security of parents or guardians. 

While I can’t replace the role of a parental figure, as a mentor, I can listen to Pedro’s aspirations and challenges, and I can support him to find his best way forward.Living in France, I conduct my mentoring sessions virtually with Pedro, who lives in Peru, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience so far. Working with Pedro has reminded me that mentoring is not about providing him with solutions, but with examples and advice so he can make his decisions on his own. I’ve had a real chance gain Pedro’s trust and create an open, honest space to discuss his future.

T: What have you and Pedro been working on together?
A: Recently, Pedro and I uncovered his real motivation and identified his “why.” We conducted a personal analysis of his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). It was very interesting to compare what we perceived as his strengths and weaknesses with those that employers often look for. He is very creative and has an open mindset, and through this activity we discovered that he has strong creative and visual skills that could be very useful in a career in graphic design.

Now, I’m helping him build confidence for job interviews. Then we’ll dive into communications skills, work habits and behavior in the workplace. At the end of our time together, I hope he will walk away with a strong sense of ambition and a clear trajectory to create an action plan with smart goals.

T: What new lessons have you learned as a mentor?
A: Mentoring young people from disadvantaged communities is very different from mentoring my colleagues and peers, and it comes with a whole new set of challenges. Their horizons are endless because of their youth, but at the same, they can feel limited by the reality of their personal suffering and hardship. Nevertheless, their energy is limitless, and their motivation to succeed knows no bounds. For example, on top of continuing his studies, Pedro works several nights a week at a hotel. Sometimes, he is so busy that this translates into delays and even cancelled appointments. It’s important for me as a mentor to show up in these moments with patience, empathy, and flexibility so my mentee knows that I’m not giving up on him.

About the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact Secondment Program

Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, Johnson & Johnson employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.

SOS Children’s Villages International
 
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