With mentorship, you can redirect your career at every point in life

Mentor. Former fashion model Christine Adera helps empower and equip young girls with skills that help them turn their dreams into realities. PHOTO BY EDGAR R. BATTE.

What you need to know:

  • Christine Adera is a former fashion model turned social worker who believes in the rights of young people and cultivating them at a young age.
  • Passionate about girls, she runs mentorship programmes in schools equipping young girls with life and leadership skills so they can effect change in their communities. She talked to Edgar R. Batte about the power of positive mentorship and finding a new career.

Walk me through your education and career journey.
I obtained a degree in Bachelor Of Arts in Social Sciences from Makerere University Kampala, and worked as a part time fashion model before fully devoting myself to social work.

When I graduated, I remember being home for two years because I thought with my degree, a job would easily come to me but I learned that that is not how life works.

Frustrated by joblessness, I approached my current organisation where my friend was working at the time, and volunteered to work with them with the aim of gaining skills that I could use to find a job.
However, a month later I was offered a contract to work full time and here I am today. However, it was not easy switching from modelling to social work because these are totally diverse fields. One involved glitz and glamour and the other involved going down to sometimes the most disadvantaged communities. It took me a while to finally settle into my new role but now, I have no regrets.

What career advice impacted you most?
“You are responsible for your life.” As simple as it sounds, this statement has had a big impact on me. When I was younger, everything was handed to me but as I got older I received less and less help so I have taken charge of my life decisions. I often see people stuck at certain points in their lives because they are constantly blaming others for their failure to progress. But when you realise the world owes you nothing, you take your personal power and make better decisions. I live on a simple rule, things happen, life moves on and it is my responsibility to keep it moving.

How has your career journey influenced the person you have become?
I am a professional fashion model who has dynamic experience in digital security, data science, project management, youth and gender empowerment, occasionally working as a trainer and consultant and an aspiring businesswoman.
I like to involve myself in different fields of work because it gives me a wider pool of opportunities, broadens my knowledge and also because I easily get bored with monotony, being diverse keeps me on my toes.

However, most of my work is around youth and gender programmes specifically around girl-child empowerment.
Who are your mentors?

I actually regard my network of friends as mentors. I do not think I have had a typical mentor-mentee arrangement in my life, because I find it too formal which sometimes creates unnecessary pressure.
Sometimes I do reach out to senior experienced mentors, however I have found that most of them have very busy schedules and seldom have the time to fully dedicate themselves to mentoring me. Which is why I have always relied on my friends when in need of advice in any particular aspect because we understand each other on a more personal level. I am blessed to have carefully chosen friends with expertise in diverse fields who see the potential in me, as I see in them.

How important is mentorship to young people?
Mentorship provides young people with the opportunity and support to develop as individuals and impact them positively. It improves their confidence, attitudes, gives them a sense of direction, self-esteem which gives them a higher chance of achieving their dreams.
As Denzel Washington once said, “Show me a successful individual and I will show you someone who had real positive influences in their life. I do not care what you do for a living — if you do it well, I am sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.”

When did you start the mentorship programmes?
In 2015 when I joined Girl-Child Network-Uganda where I managed the Girls Empowerment Clubs programme. An empowerment club is a safe space where a group of girls get together regularly with the goal of creating a platform for girls to freely express themselves, tackle issues that affect them, gain skills and also enlarge their knowledge on a variety of subjects.

What is your focus when mentoring young people, and why?
We focus on truth and reality in the information we provide and standards we set for them.

I have seen a common trend of ‘mentors’ and ‘role models’ in Uganda who continuously sell this facade about how they became hugely successful.
Social media in particular has exposed young people to the wrong mentors and role models. Many will lie to them that hard work got them where they are, and yet in reality, there are undisclosed questionable deals that got them where they are. And when these young people work extra hard as advised and do not achieve the desired results, they end up frustrated and depressed.
Young people need to learn that there is no time frame to success, as long as they have an end goal in mind, how and when they get there may require patience, discipline and dedication.

What do you wish you were told to better deal with the realities of the job market?
I wish someone would have guided me when selecting courses in university based on my interests in my career path. This is not only my experience, but rather a continuing common issue among most of the young people in Uganda today.

There is a big mismatch between their dream careers and education choices. My course at University was selected for me by the university system, and any courses afterwards were based on bandwagon effect. Where my friends went, I would go.

This way, I ended up pursuing a course that I was not necessarily interested in using to build a career. If I had known better, maybe I would have made better choices. However, not all hope was lost, I had the opportunity to redirect my path in a field that I was rather interested in pursuing further.

What work ethic do you uphold, and why?
I pride myself in being principled but one of the most important work ethics I uphold is integrity which comprises honesty, loyalty, respect, truthfulness, trust, among others. Where there is integrity, there are better relationships both personally and professionally.

How do you destress?
I love watching non-fiction crime stories and documentaries. I am always fascinated by why people commit crimes and how they are caught. Also listening to music relaxes me, hanging with friends, visiting new places and picking up new hobbies.