February 29, 2024

Three Ways Experience Shapes Our Mentoring Sessions

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Every mentor or supervisor uses their own experiences to guide their mentees. It is almost impossible not to use one’s experiences and perspectives during sessions. Here are some to be aware of:

Your Experience

Mentors and Supervisors often enter into the role because of their personal experience. We have been pastors, coaches, teachers, leaders, and everything we have learned has led us to a place where we wish to help others. For example, many people I have mentored and supervised have faced issues with burnout, a topic I have a lot of personal experience with. Burnout was a painful time of my life, but it turned out to be a gift as it positioned me to be able to help others either recover from burnout or avoid it. 

Our personal experience will shape everything we see and say. A good mentor or supervisor sees the influence of their past and has the wisdom to understand when it is helpful to share it, or when it will not benefit the conversation. We never want to make the relationship about ourselves; we are there to guide others. Our own experience can help, but the focus should always be on the mentee or supervisee. 

“He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that God has poured out upon us.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭4‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Reflection Questions: 

How have my experiences led me to where I am? 

Is my experience relevant and helpful to others’ situations? 

Am I sharing to encourage them or simply because I want to speak? 

Their Experience

Your supervisees’/mentees’ past influences their present. Every time they show up for a session, they carry a lifetime of experiences that have shaped them into who they are. We only see the person they present at that moment, but we always need to remember that they always carry a plethora of context, culture, trauma, skills, biases, passions…  

We use this experience all the time, and the more experiences that your mentee/supervisee shares and reflects on, the more foundation we can lay to understand them more fully and also use their own past experiences to add perspective and insight to their current situations. 

A mentee might share that they are feeling overwhelmed and depressed. You can ask if they have felt this way before. Most likely, they have. You can ask how they got through this difficult period last time. What worked for them?  What might be even more effective this time around? 

Unpacking specific experiences from the past can also help build a brighter path forward. If your mentee, for example, is using language like “I’m a failure,” you know that this must come from a negative experience. You can ask, “What makes you say that? Is this true according to the people who love you? When did this idea begin?” This could lead to a deeper realisation that a parent caused them to believe this lie very early on. 

Reflection Questions: 

What have you learned from this experience? 

What do you want to be different? 

How can you act on this desire to change? 

Outside Experience

A wonderful thing about today is that we have access to the experiences of so many others: the people we’ve met, books, websites, online videos, even social media… We have the world at our fingertips. This means that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel when helping out mentees/supervisees through their struggles. Someone out there has lived through a similar situation, and someone else has the key to make it through the other side. 

In my restoration phase, recovering from burnout, I re-ignited my love of woodworking. It helped my mental and physical health to be able to get up and create something. However, I was not an expert, so I got the opportunity to call on the expertise of others, mainly through YouTube. There was the information I needed and more. 

As a supervisor and a mentor, I don’t always have to be the one with the solution. I just need to help them find a solution. There are always people to ask, and places to seek out knowledge. We are all better together.

Reflection Questions: 

Who can help you with this? 

Who else has experienced this? 

What resources are at my disposal? 

Next Steps: 

Where are you in the growth track of mentee/supervisee or mentor/supervisor? Are you just starting to work with and trust a mentor of your own? Or are you seeking to step into the role of a supervisor yourself? Wherever you are, there are ways we can help you grow. 

Check out our growth track to better understand what you are looking for! 

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