The impact of mentorship on developing young leaders 

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Nkhesani Jessica Mahlekisi (27) was raised in Daveyton, a township located in Ekurhuleni, East of Johannesburg. As a result of her childhood experiences and later being afforded opportunities through a multinational’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign, Nkhesani’s success is the result of a corporate mentorship programme aimed at the youth. Now she aims to use her project management, public relations and branding expertise for the benefit of people, the planet and business.

Jessica started her working career as a model at just 16 years old. After a few years in front of the camera, she decided she wanted to discover more about working behind the scenes in the beauty industry. She obtained a PR degree part-time through UNISA and after responding to a CSR campaign on Twitter, she got to attend a digital upskilling course with an NGO. Using a combination of her communication skills and passion for social causes, Jessica then landed a job at one of the leading beauty brands, L’Oreal South Africa.

Within a year, and through an intensive mentoring process, she was appointed Marketing and Digital Coordinator for the Luxe division. In this role, Jessica is responsible for rolling out awareness and CSR campaigns such as ‘YSL Beauty Abuse Is Not Love’ and ‘Armani Acqua For Life’, which give back to the communities that are similar to the one she grew up in.

“It is so important for corporate brands to look at the communities they’re operating in and ask what they

can do to address the challenges and fill the gaps where there is a need,” she says. “For me, the impact on a community level is the most important thing companies can do for people and the planet. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today if it weren’t for corporate social responsibility programmes and the mentors who took me under their wings. It’s one thing to learn skills from a learning institution, but another entirely to put them into practice and navigate the world of work. For young people to succeed, they need support from leaders and intentional programmes that pair them with a mentor or mentorship group.”

In addition to her burgeoning career at the beauty brand, L’Oréal will be sending her to the One Young World summit taking place in the United Kingdom in October.

“The event is the culmination of a long journey through which we’ve been working on group projects with other delegates from around the world. Due to my own experience with a mentorship programme, I’m excited to be collaborating with a team to develop a mentoring platform in India.

I’m looking forward to travelling to Europe for the first time, networking with other young people who are

as passionate about sustainability and brand cause marketing as I am, and having the opportunity to meet some of my global colleagues in Paris.”

As a young woman who has benefited from mentors and managers who are invested in her career growth, Jessica says it’s important for the youth to identify their mentor and speak up about what they want.

“Be intentional about your career and have a plan for where you want to get to. Stretch yourself and put in the work so that you can be considered for bigger opportunities when they come along. Know what it is that you want to achieve, stay true to your dreams, and make your goals known to your leaders.”