Lorraine Hall has been a valued mentor at the Pinnacle Foundation for nearly four years, having mentored two of our scholars during this time. Lorraine has had an illustrious career as a commercially focused senior lawyer and has a long-standing passion for working with people in a mentoring capacity. Lorraine shares what she has learnt during her journey as a Pinnacle Foundation mentor.
What inspired you to become a mentor at The Pinnacle Foundation?
I first registered to become a mentor with The Pinnacle Foundation in 2012 after reading about the Foundation in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir newsletter. I remember thinking that I wanted to be involved with Pinnacle because I feel passionately about education and supporting young LGBTIQ+ Australians having access to positive role models in all areas of life – career, relationships and wellbeing. I wanted to share my knowledge and experience and contribute positively to a young LGBTIQ+ Australian’s life experience. It wasn’t until 2016, after finalising the mentor/scholar compatibility check to make sure that we got on well together, that I began my first mentoring relationship at Pinnacle. I am driven by the knowledge that even though we have seen many advancements in the rights for the LGBTIQ+ community, we do have a long way to go and it is important to support and walk alongside young folk, especially those who have faced estrangement from family and community, so that they know they are not alone and that they have a community that supports and backs them in their journey.
What have you learnt from being a mentor at The Pinnacle Foundation?
My first mentoring role at Pinnacle was a great learning curve for me and even though I have experience in mentoring roles, mentoring young people is very dynamic and eye-opening. The transgenerational component of mentoring young people brings you up to date with what is happening in today’s educational landscape and the life challenges that young people face that were not part of my personal trajectory when I was of a similar age. I also learnt that as a mentor I could bring some more traditional approaches to situations that require a different perspective and approach. One example of this was when I recommended a more personalised approach rather than a heavy reliance on technology to face a challenging situation at university. I encouraged my scholar to set up a face-to-face meeting with their lecturer, rather than rely on email communication. This approach worked well because often lecturers are more receptive to face-to-face interactions and issues can be resolved better with a personal approach.
I truly believe that one of the biggest joys of being a mentor is the continual learning that comes along with the process. Being a mentor has encouraged me to look outside of my own history and life experience and learn about someone else’s story. These transgenerational, transcultural exchanges have opened my eyes not only to the differences between myself and my mentee, but also the similarities in our experiences. It is important to share insights with scholars even if the insights may or may not be relevant at that precise moment – you just never know what will resonate with your scholar and their experience. In my journey as a Pinnacle mentor, I have come to understand and acknowledge my strengths and limitations in this role. I can better identify what I can and cannot help my mentee with and acknowledge what I do and not know. It is important to be open to not knowing and always be ready to explore and upgrade your knowledge and skillset.
One important skill that I have learnt to further develop and one that I strive to always remember is to actively listen to my mentee, without probing. Actively listening means that I am not imposing my own opinion and experience without considering the scholar’s history and circumstances. It is vital to remember that everyone is an expert in their own life and can determine what the best course for their life is, based on what they have lived through and experienced. Additionally, to active listening, I have learnt that it is so important to be available, flexible and always ask questions without making assumptions. This approach has helped me nurture the relationship with the scholars I’ve been mentoring as I want to provide support from a place of understanding and empathy.
What advice would you give to other mentors or potential mentors who want to join The Pinnacle Foundation?
I can honestly say that mentoring is one of the most rewarding relationships that you can ever embark on. To get the most out of the mentoring process it is important to throw yourself in to the experience wholeheartedly. In my experience a certain degree of emotional intelligence is necessary in order to fulfil your role as a mentor well. It is so important to be available and flexible to your scholar as sometimes issues do arise outside of the scope of your scheduled mentoring appointment times where your scholar needs your support. A good mentor should enter a mentoring relationship with the perspective that you are there to support, assist, advise and encourage your scholar. The mentoring relationship can sometimes take you outside of your comfort zone and can turn into quite an intense relationship as we are working with young LGBTIQ + people who have often faced innumerable challenges in their lives, estrangement from family and mental health issues. Although you should always do your best to support your scholar, it is also important to be clear on where your role starts and ends, as a mentor is not there to provide professional mental health support, should that be needed.
Finally, one key piece of advice is to have fun! This is a fun and rewarding process – enjoy the moments, always keep learning and take each day as it comes. I remember one evening about a year after I started mentoring, when my partner and I went for dinner with my scholar and her partner. Having a casual evening to share our experiences, enjoy interesting conversation and laughter was a wonderful way to solidify and strengthen our mentoring relationship in the long-term, as we have kept in touch well past our mentoring stage. This evening meant a lot to my scholar, who said that it was so wonderful to witness a long-term successful same-sex partnership. The evening also meant so much to me and my partner because we got to spend a beautiful evening with two wonderful people.
Being a mentor for The Pinnacle Foundation is absolutely an experience I recommend as it has brought so much enjoyment, learning and understanding to my life.