For Youth Business Germany (YBG), mentoring is the key to success. They match every entrepreneur with a mentor because they believe that this typically leads to greater progress and that both mentors and mentees benefit personally and professionally.
YBG is one of nine Youth Business International members involved in the Youth Business Europe (YBE) initiative, a regional programme supporting young people to start, grow and sustain their businesses, launched in 2015 by Youth Business International and the Citi Foundation. The partnership is part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, which aims to equip urban youth with the tools to thrive in today’s economy. As part of this, Citi is committed to engaging its employees through volunteerism including mentoring and training for young entrepreneurs.
Christoph Schlüter, Head of Communications at Citi’s Frankfurt location and the central contact between YBG and Citi, joined the YBG mentoring programme in spring 2017. Through Christoph’s mentoring of one young entrepreneur, he was able to add even greater value to YBG’s work—and in 2018 was rewarded for his outstanding contribution with the YBG Mentoring Award.
We asked Christoph about his experience as a mentor, and his insights highlight how Citi’s employee engagement model has positive, long-lasting impacts on individuals and the business community.
You do two things in parallel: you help by teaching from your own experiences, which are otherwise untapped sources of wisdom, and you learn new things for yourself. Over regular meetings—four times per month for at least one year—you get an in-depth look at a young entrepreneur and a new business, and it is rewarding to watch both grow and develop.
I was interested in learning more about young entrepreneurs and their business ideas, especially since their businesses are often totally different from what I do in my professional life. Without having ever started my own enterprise, I also know that it can be easy to forget about the basic aspects of a project and to focus too much on distracting, unimportant tasks. I thought as a mentor I could use my fresh perspective to help the mentee keep his eyes open for such pitfalls.
It was very interesting to learn more about the mentee’s business as well as his thought processes, motivations and goals. In the end, it was all about human beings engaging with other human beings.
Do not be afraid of being useless because you think you’re too old or your experience is outdated. Sometimes, a different perspective is what an entrepreneur needs most, and that’s when you make the most helpful contributions. Listen and let your ideas flow, and you will see that you can offer supportive guidance based on your own professional and personal experiences.
Mentoring relationships are an important way for new and established members of the business community to support each other and to learn from different points of view. By fostering and promoting these relationships with the help of employees like Christoph, Citi is building important networks which enhance the opportunities available to underserved young entrepreneurs.
Read more about the impact of voluntary business mentoring on young entrepreneurs.