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  • Catherine Hodgson


If ever there was a more pressing time in the world for mentoring, it is now, as millions of people, young and old, find themselves in precarious situations never before experienced in their lifetime. Many have had their dreams and plans shattered or come to a grinding halt, the inability to find work, losing their business, their job or a loved one. So many people are experiencing mental health issues, feeling overwhelmed, fearful, depressed, demotivated, stressed, inert or alone.

Are you prepared to do something and make a difference during these times? You may not have medical skills to get onto the frontline, but if you have some life or work experience, that you are prepared to share with others, or even a good ear for listening and some empathy, then you can make a difference in someone’s life.


The ability for young people to find a job or start their career in the corporate sector now has been severely hampered. We have two young adult daughters who both graduated from university over the last year during Covid. My husband and I watched as their dreams came to a halt as they could not travel overseas as planned, trying to do the common thing that young graduates do…take a year off to go and explore the world. Their idea of working their way around Europe and then finding a job eventually, which would launch their career, was something that went out the window when countries closed their borders and lockdowns ensued. What we saw next in our daughters truly amazed us….

During our first initial lockdown, while they were both studying online at home, they decided to get moving and do something about launching their own businesses. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs, so maybe the idea of being an entrepreneur is just natural to them, but I think it’s also the bravery of young people and their ability to just make things happen. Our older daughter started an online cooking channel, gaining a great following while our younger daughter started to experiment with tie dying clothing to see if there was opportunity to sell online. Both of these were not generating any income for them, but we could see that they were motivated to do something instead of just sitting around. My husband and I started our own company 25 years ago and so we thought to offer an opportunity for our daughters to launch their own business by providing them with some premises in our building. We dropped some hints, had a few dinner chats and then left it up to them to take up the opportunity or not. With a lot of hesitancy they took up the opportunity to open their own retail shop. We decided that my husband would mentor them to help get them going as I had less time available keeping our main business afloat as well as running a mentoring business. Within three months they were up and going with a pop up store which took off and created new energy and buzz in our neighbourhood. What they have learnt in the past 4 months of running their own business has been more valuable than the four years they spent at university and earning their own money has taught them the value of it.


We always talk about paying it forward, but so often we forget to do so.

What really made a huge impression on me was the way our daughters wanted to then make a difference in other people’s lives. My husband has been such a great support and mentor to them, while they in turn have supported other entrepreneurs by buying products from them and giving them the space to sell at their premises during their Friday markets. They have actually been mentors to a whole lot more entrepreneurs and helped them survive these difficult times. We actually created a chain reaction of mentoring unintentionally.

So what can you do to make a difference?

Is there someone you know that you can mentor? Can you help someone launch their dreams and turn them into a reality? Is there an organisation you can get involved in to make a difference by mentoring others?

The first answer I hear is that “I don’t have time”. In these times, we really need to make the time – can you swop out an hour a month on social media for an hour on Zoom having a conversation with someone and knowing it will make a difference in their lives? I’m sure we can all find one hour a month to do something great.

The second thing that I hear is “I don’t have the experience to be a mentor”. If you have life experiences, then you can be a mentor. Let’s look at what would help you to feel more confident to be a mentor:

1. Do some self- reflection.

- What are 5 things that are really important to you? Have you examined your values and know what is “sacred” to you?

- What are you passionate about? What do you get excited about?

- What are your strengths? What are you good at?

- What have you experienced in your life? What have been your greatest challenges and how did you overcome them? What have been your greatest regrets? What would you do differently? What are your greatest successes? What would you do the same again? What are you proud of achieving?

- Who has been a great mentor in your life, or a great influence in your life? What did you learn from them? How did they make you feel?

2. Hone your conversation skills.

- Listening is probably the most important skill that is required to be a great mentor. You need to be listening 80% of the time, so it actually takes the pressure off you as the other person needs to be doing most of the talking. It’s really important to go into a conversation being non-judgemental, respectfully curious and believing that the other person has the best answers within themselves. Most people are just looking for someone who will listen to them and be a sounding board. The greatest gift you can give someone is to just listen to them.

- Questioning skills are necessary, but don’t feel pressured if you don’t feel as though you have all the questions at the tip of your tongue. Often being comfortable with pauses and silence leads the other person to come up with answers for themselves. It takes a brave and confident person to be able to do this, so lean into silence often. When a question really does allude you, reflect back what the other person has said, picking up two or three key words. Just reflecting back will often generate a question. Otherwise, “Tell me more” will help the other person dive deeper into their own thinking and help to generate insight. One of my favourite ones is “What would be most helpful for you right now?

- Advice: your advice may be asked for, but only give it as a last resort and only if applicable and helpful. “Hold your advice lightly. Offer it and then let it go”

3. Be open, honest and vulnerable, remove your ego, be empathetic and ask “How can I support you?”

4. Build rapport and trust with the person you are mentoring. The greater the trust the deeper the conversation.

Imagine if everyone who was able to, took on one person to mentor….what a difference we could make in the world. With unemployment levels being at record highs, young people feeling lost and unsure of their future, and so many people just needing a person to speak to, we can make a huge impact in the world right now.


I implore you to not let this opportunity pass. I encourage you to make a difference in someone’s life right now! Reach out, mentor someone, make a difference today….you will be amazed how much you will get in return!

Article by Catherine Hodgson

Catherine Hodgson is the co-founder and CEO of The Hodgson Group in South Africa as well as the Founder of Shift Mentoring. Hodgson joined YPO (Young Presidents Organisation) in 2009 and served as Global Mentoring Chair for 5 years, rolling out the YPO Mentoring program to chapters around the world, developing mentoring material and launching Mentoring Masterclasses. She believes passionately in lifelong learning and has been on a personal journey in the mentoring and coaching fields. She is a YPO Mentoring Facilitator, Certified Results Based Coach through the NeuroLeadership Institute and Certified in Conversational Intelligence. Married with two daughters, she lives in Cape Town, South Africa and spends five months of the year in Europe.

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