Mentor program expands to Manatee

By Lillian Elliott

The adage, “It Takes a Village,” also applies as it relates to mentoring!

Often, our first mentors are older siblings or other family members that teach us the ropes. We go to them to discuss our anxieties and they also provide un-solicited advice when they see us veering off the right path. This informal mentoring is critical to building the self-confidence and coping skills that carry us through life.

Before we become adults, we add to our “village” of mentors through our connections with teachers, community organizations, clubs, church and family friends. This becomes our “Village” that helps us to navigate through school and decide on next steps. After high school graduation, as we move into adulthood, it becomes more difficult to find that same kind of support.

You may be surprised to know that while there are many successful mentoring programs for children, there are very few mentoring opportunities for adults in our region and none that addresses the specific needs of our clients.

In 2017, a group of WRC volunteers, in the Sarasota facility, started a mentoring program for employment clients. Within the first year, the WRC Employment Mentoring Program data showed that clients working with mentors increased their potential in finding meaningful and sustainable employment by 67%. We discovered that the use of mentors adds a layer of additional support for our clients as they transition to success.

Before being assigned a mentor, clients are assessed to determine which training program, group or individual coaching experience would be most beneficial. Clients are always encouraged to take advantage of WRC wrap-around services.

Program recommendations are customized based on client needs assessments and topics include:

  • Employment Success Tools
  • Personality (Communication) in the Workplace
  • Resume Writing Support
  • Dressing for Success
  • Mock Interviewing
  • Networking & Job Search Techniques

After clients are prepared with the required knowledge, skills and tools; they are matched with a mentor. Mentors provide on-going 1:1 employment counseling and assistance during the client’s job search.

Mentors build a professional relationship with the client. They listen to the client’s employment story, review her resume, and learn their skills, and interests. Through a series of periodic meetings, they assist the client in goal clarification, action planning, provide job search strategies and encouragement along the path toward goal realization.

The success of the Sarasota Employment Mentoring Program was so impactful, that in 2018 we integrated the model into the WRC Manatee Employment Program. In addition, at each of our Centers, we now connect mentors to clients that:

  • Are prepared to advance their career, while in their current role
  • Need mentoring to avoid career derailment
  • Require mentors to pursue other areas of career development

We are working on the next step in our mentoring program, including providing mentors to every participant in Project UpLift, our 2Gen program. Through the generous support of the Ralph French Foundation and Manatee Matches, we are in the process of designing a multi-layered formal mentoring program. This program will enable us to give ALL our clients the best possible chance of success in their efforts to be financial self-sufficient.

Achieving this goal will require assistance from a diverse team of trained mentors – a Village!