The official magazine of international civil servants since 1949

La revue officielle des fonctionnaires internationaux depuis 1949

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INSIDE VIEW

What did I learn from “Together Mentoring”?
During 2020 “Together Mentoring” paired mentors and mentees. We met Catarinha Camarinhas from ECLAC and Solene Le Doze from ESCAP who shared their testimonies with us
8 Apr 2021

Author: Catarinha Camarinhas

In the current circumstances of social distancing and isolation that we have been living through in this COVID-19 era, we all became more introspective and reflective with regard to our choices. I saw the programme as a chance to take a step back and reflect on my career direction, benefitting from the insight of a more experienced colleague.

I was aware that mentoring programmes existed, perhaps more common in other cultures than my own, and had learned about them through an intensive UNSCC training course that I took several years ago, on “Leadership, Women and the UN.”

Mentoring was then recommended as one of the career development tools introduced.
As the call for registrations for the “Together Mentoring” programme came out, I immediately jumped at the opportunity, greatly out of curiosity, while also, in part, secretly fearing my mentor and I might not get along and that I would be doomed to persevere through it for several months.

My fears were unjustified as the programme totally lived up to and even went beyond my expectations. Now entering its second year, I would highlight “Together Mentoring” as a transformative learning experience, benefitting from the tremendous internal expertise and talent of the UN.

More than a career development tool, it soon became apparent that the programme would be an opportunity to break out of my professional bubble, to connect and recognise the other at a time when this was more important than ever. Exchange through the mentorship programme – brought me an informed external outlook, having in common a will to advance sustainable development outcomes, to strengthen impact, and gave me the needed perspective to refocus my career.

Some time ago I read the definition of ‘success in a word’ by Dree Hemingway, great-granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway: Happiness. “My cat embodies all success”, she jokingly added. Learning from the legacy of «The Old Man and the Sea», the fisherman’s journey of success is also his struggle with integrity, embodying resilience in a challenging context. The programme can offer us the inspiration to learn from others, having examples to follow, the knowledge that others have also overcome obstacles, and the encouragement of the great possibilities in our UN journeys.

I joined the programme with the feeling of having reached a career plateau, and with one specific goal in mind: to debate possible avenues on how to refocus or broaden my career. I have gained more insight into my own professional trajectory, and came to realise that, ultimately, I may have reached a happiness plateau.

Author: Solene Le Doze

Seldom do you have the opportunity to have a mentor in the United Nations system, so when the opportunity arose through a pilot programme “Together Mentoring” – I jumped on it.

After selecting what topics I wanted mentoring on, in my case, managing up, networking and how to take the next step in my UN career, I was paired with a Director based in Geneva.

The programme was really helpful in terms of suggesting topics and various themes to explore with my mentor, in a step-by-step approach, from getting to know each other as mentor and mentee to diving into the core of the topics I was interested in. Some sessions were also about specific issues of relevance to all staff, such as receiving feedback and suggested specific experiences like shadowing. It was flexible enough that we could take these suggestions or focus on some more relevant issues to my specific needs. With forty-five minute sessions planned every other week over.

Well-tailored, the programme enabled me to get informed and practical advice tailored to my work environment that can be difficult to apprehend for a person not working at the United Nations.

At the end of the day though, I think I thoroughly enjoyed the experience because of the willingness of my mentor to share her wisdom in a very open and friendly way and because we had a real professional connection, albeit virtual.

I’ll definitely participate in the second round of mentorship programme, which just opened, both as a mentor and a mentee this time, as the experience was really valuable to me the first time around.

* Ian Richards is an Economist at UNCTAD and a UNOG staff representative.
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