I was 16 when I became an intern in the creative industry. I remember stepping out of the train station and seeing the large offices, working people, and the buzz of London. It was a life I wanted to experience but felt slightly intimidated by. Then I met my mentor, who helped me see a realistic path towards a successful career.

I was 16 at the time, and had an interest in creative careers, like writing, but lacked the relevant knowledge of which job roles were available to me. That's why I decided to find an internship and was paired with a senior copywriter, Irina, at a marketing firm.

From our first conversation, she understood how scary it could be to work in London, but showed me the excitement and the intrigue of creative writing and marketing. Throughout those months, I built my confidence in copywriting, enjoying the variety it brought as well as the skills it taught me to write for different audiences. Irina supported my creativity and gave me opportunities to bring forward ideas for the firm.

In a rapidly-changing world, the need for a career mentor is becoming ever more important. A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser — a confidant who can support younger people or those less-experienced. Someone who can be a friend, or a teacher, your manager, maybe even a parent or other family member.
According to the careers website, Indeed, mentors guide, advise and support mentees through their careers. Mentors will use their experience and skills to guide others and help them achieve specific goals. By sharing knowledge and experiences, mentees can feel supported when starting a career. Mentors also help to offer opportunities and connect their mentees with others to advance their growth.

Since that first job, I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors in the form of teachers and managers who have cultivated my talents and challenged me to take them further. My work experience wouldn’t be as vast and varied without them.

The same goes for many young people who’ve benefited from mentorship at the start of their career. But mentorship is open and available to everyone. Take it from the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board (AKYSB) for the UK who run the ‘Aspire’ programme for members of the Jamat wishing to become a mentor or a mentee.
“Many of our mentors have helped launch someone's career - whether that's through providing advice on CVs/ resumes and cover letters, to making introductions to someone in the field,” said Fahim Sachedina, an AKYSB member. “Career mentoring doesn't need to focus on young people - anyone can take advantage of having a career mentor!”

Mentoring programmes exist in many other Jamati jurisdictions too, including the Future Ready Initiative in Canada, Reach for the Stars in India, and Skills Development projects in the USA.

The business publication Forbes lists some of the important benefits of having a mentor:

  • A big source of learning – “With expert advice and knowledge from experienced professionals, mentees can gain access to invaluable information that enables them to learn quickly and understand more complex concepts more easily.”
  • Help with setting achievable goals – “Creating specific and measurable goals in tandem with an experienced mentor can not only help you define objectives and achieve success, but it can also provide invaluable skills development and career advice.”
  • Valuable connections – “A mentor could be your ticket to expanding your professional network and accessing more resources to help identify and achieve your professional goals.”

“Having a career mentor can help you learn new skills or refine existing ones, increase productivity, increase your network and knowledge about a particular industry, and ultimately improve your quality of life,” Fahim continued. “Many of our mentees have gone on to establish new careers, start businesses, further their education, as well as give back to the Ismaili community by being a mentor themselves!”

AKYSB’s ‘Aspire’ programme began in 2008 as a Golden Jubilee initiative. Since it started, their mentors have positively supported the lives of over 150 young murids in the UK and Europe.

“Mentors have played a crucial role in helping these individuals overcome social anxiety and boost their self-confidence,” Fahim said. “They’ve also been a source of vital support and direction in the lives of our mentees. Some have even expressed that without their mentor's guidance, they would not be on the successful path they are on today.”