By Christina Stavrides

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Gysbert Bergsma, a mentor practitioner at Mentoring Europe. Gysbert was able to provide us with a unique inside perspective on the industry, opening up about his own beliefs on the practice, and how he plans to incorporate them in his exciting, new mentoring projects.

‘‘There is no one solution to mentoring. You need to tailor the needs to each and every person you meet.’’ 

That is Gysbert’s simple and only rule to mentoring. But is there more to his teachings?

As an active child, eager to learn and explore his possibilities, Gysbert shared that he was often met with an incurious attitude from the adults around him – telling him to sit down, to be quiet, to just listen. As he reflects on the moment he was finally faced with the choice of selecting a career path, he believes these experiences played a big role in his decision: ‘‘Surely there are more people struggling with these kinds of things,’’ he recalled thinking. ‘‘I wanted to help, and I got into social work.’’

For Gysbert, a mentor is someone who simply helps you discover things about yourself that you might have overlooked. They act not only as someone with a fresh perspective on your capabilities, but also as a mirror – with the most subtly rewarding aspect of becoming a mentor being simply bringing to the surface the power and potential each mentee already holds. According to Gysbert, seeing someone discover new talents about themselves is one of the most gratifying feelings a mentor can experience.

When asked what advice he has for anyone wanting to become a mentor, Gysbert provided encouragement to draw inspiration from evidence-based mentoring practices, but to also take an individual approach with each unique circumstance, since every mentee requires a distinct method. To him, a needed step in the beginning of his career was discovering who his ‘‘natural’’ role models were – the people in his life who he admired, and who made him the person that he currently is. Gysbert’s passion in mentoring was discovered through being a mentee himself, with one of his main natural role models being Betty Bijvoets, the founder of the programme he is now part of. Gysbert confessed that before his sessions with Betty, he had no idea how to make use of his enthusiastic personality, the same way he had no idea a mentoring occupation was even a possible career path. Betty made it possible for Gysbert to see the talents and skills that he possesses, leading him to taking full advantage of his strengths and applying them to his personal and professional life. Instead of seeing Gysbert as someone with too much energy and not enough concentration, Betty caught sight of his entrepreneurial skills and dynamic temperament, and helped Gysbert on his path to becoming a mentoring project leader.

After hearing Gysbert’s story on how he entered the industry, we delved into the topic of his involvement in new mentoring projects, one being ‘‘Road to Adulthood.’’ The programme is tailored towards young migrants that are only beginning their journey of adulthood and that reside in the Netherlands, Spain, Greece, and Italy. In another project called ‘‘New Chances,’’ he combines sports with mentoring. Studies have found that young individuals can be reached more effectively when they are given something to focus their physical energy on during the process of talking. ‘‘Not every young person wants to talk – some want to learn through motion,’’ explained Gysbert. ‘‘Also, it gives mentors the opportunity to let mentees explore their talents inside and outside various sports.’’

The activities provided are fast-moving and adrenaline-filled, but they also teach mentees about the process of balancing their energy. Many people, even in more personal settings, find themselves looking to keep their hands busy while opening up to someone. By focusing on the activities incorporated into the session, the mentee is given the opportunity to move around and talk more freely, without restrictions or judgement. Through this mentoring process, they can learn to balance their physical and emotional energies and apply this balance to their everyday life.

When we asked Gysbert to share the most important things to keep in mind while mentoring, he pointed out that ‘‘there is no one solution. You need to tailor the needs to each and every person you meet.’’ While this approach might seem difficult, Gysbert revealed that the secret to effective mentoring is to let go of everything that you have learned and simply listen without any preconceived perception of a person or situation. It is through this simple ‘‘rule’’ that he also manages to keep up with the changes and modernisation of the industry, speaking to professionals from other countries and learning not only from the mentors, but also from the mentees themselves.

In addition to keeping up with the fast-growing industry, Gysbert prioritises tailoring the circumstances and mentoring approaches while dealing with marginalised groups. He assigns mentors to those who may have had similar experiences or that come from a similar cultural background. Although language and background may differ, sports are universal, which allows for a clearer flow of conversation and understanding, despite any linguistic complications.

Despite Gysbert’s modern approaches to mentoring, he shared with us that in his free time, he highly enjoys listening to and playing what he described as ‘‘old man music’’, such as the Rolling Stones, on the piano and guitar. Towards the end of our interview, we asked him how he balances his personal life alongside a career that takes so much emotional involvement. Even with his lengthy experience in the field, Gysbert admitted that this is something he is still trying to figure out for himself. However, he experiences doubts on whether he wants to change this part of him at all, as mentoring feels like a core part of his identity.

It was immensely insightful to discover Gysbert’s personal approaches to the process of mentoring, his secrets to a successful and easeful mentoring session, and his future plans within his new projects.

For more information, you can find Gysbert on LinkedIn.

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