Africa as a Common Interest
A job in the union movement ranks high on Juhue Kang’s wish list. The match with Marianne Bruun, who works in the union 3F, is therefore perfect. Moreover the couple also shares an academic interest in Africa. Their mentor/mentee relationship has worked for a year and a half, and they now also see each other privately.
Mentee Juhae Kang
· Juhae is from South Korea and moved to Denmark with her German husband nearly six years ago.
· Has a master’s degree in African Studies from the University of Copenhagen.
· Main purpose with the mentor/mentee relation: a job in the union movement.
· Age: 30 y.
Mentor Marianne Bruun
· Development consultant in the trade union 3F, with organizational development projects.
· Has a master’s degree in Pedagogy from the Danish Pedagogical University and has worked in the union movement for more than 25 years – among other things, with gender equality as a field of work.
· Age: 59 y.
Af Jørgen Poulsen
A cocktail of holiday memories and Denmark’s international status as an equal society brought Juhae Kang and her German boyfriend to Denmark six years ago. They had met in England, where they both studied: “David had many happy memories from his holidays in Denmark with his family. He also told me about the gender equality here and I had a strong wish for an equal society and democracy, so we agreed to move to Denmark to continue our studies.”
Advice after graduating: Get a mentor
Two years ago Juhae finished her master in African Studies at the University of Copenhagen. Like all graduates she immediately went job hunting. It was a meeting for the international graduates that open Juhae’s eyes to KVINFO’s Mentor Network.
”At the meeting people from unemployment insurrance funds, trade unions and student counselors gave advice on how to find work, write an application and so on. Finally they recommended that we participated in a mentoring program. I thought it was a good idea and when I googled “mentor program” KVINFO’s Mentor Network came up. I was desperate to enter the labor market so I wanted professional feedback on my applications and knowledge of how to find work. Since I dreamt of a job within a union I wanted a mentor who worked in a union.”
A match with Marianne Bruun, a development consultant at the 3F union, quickly fell into place – not least because both are also involved in gender equality and are professionally interested in Africa. Marianne has been a mentor many times before within 3F and had also completed a mentor course in KVINFO’s Mentor Network with a mentee from Kenya. “”I had written that it would be obvious to work with a mentee from East Africa because I have worked as a volunteer in Kenya, and today have a number of projects in Tanzania. Therefore it lay in the cards that I should be matched with Emma from Kenya in my first mentor course. My reason for choosing East Africa is thus entirely private. I know the region well, I have knowledge of the language and culture and I have a great veneration for the area.”
Marianne gives access to network
Job openings in the unions within Juhae’s field of work are few, so it wasn’t in this way that Marianne could assist. Instead Marianne opened her networks and professional communities to Juhae. It was valuable because many immigrants find it difficult to befriend Danes. Juhae elaborates: “Marianne invited me to her workplace where I met her colleagues and heard about their work. Marianne also introduced me to colleagues and friends when we met for events and debates about gender equality. Through Marianne I have also come closer to the Danish way of life. In that way the mentor/mentee relationship is not only about the professional but also about everyday things. I have many international friends from when I was studying. Like me, they find it difficult to create contact and friendships with Danes. The Danes have their close friendships, dating back to elementary school or high school and they are often engaged in
However, according to Marianne Juhae has a great network herself: ”From the university she has many contacts. Many of them are of course in the international environment, but it is a very varied and resourceful crowd. Juhae does not need networks for social reasons or to get in contact with other people. Fortunately.”
Uformel meetings and settings
Juhae and Marianne have seen each other for a year and a half: “At first we met once a month at a café. The meetings have been very informal and relaxed. We didn’t sit down with papers, schematics and formal frameworks. It was more about discussing my concerns, experiences with companies and things that seemed strange to me about the Danish labor market. That way I got a lot of advice.”
Juhae also wanted to practice Danish, Marianne adds: ”That was easy to accommodate. Among other things we talk about gender equality. Juhae is engaged in female political work in Enhedslisten. We discuss and talk about concepts, tendencies, conflicts and visions in Danish and we compare Danish logic and South Korean logic or African logic. It is exciting to do comparative studies and talk about, what people are struggling with around the globe. It has given rise to some very interesting conversations.”
First job as a maternity cover signed
Shortly after their mentor/mentee relation had begun, Juhae managed to get a job as a maternity cover in a job center. Today Juhae is on maternity leave herself, but when that comes to an end she will start job hunting again – however this time the starting point is very different: “Now I’ve been on the other side and guided unemployed. I have learned a lot from that and I have gained experience with the Danish labor market. When the time comes I hope Marianne will read my applications again and help me with how to contact companies.”
From collaboration to friendship
Their relation has developed into something else and more than a professional collaboration: ”Marianne has invited me to Christmas lunch with her family, so I could experience Danish culture and traditions. We now also meet with both mine and Marianne’s husband. They are both interested in society and politics, and they speak well together. It is also an advantage that families meet. When I gave birth. Marianne came to visit. That meant a lot since my own family lives far away. It made a big difference.” Says Juhae.
It is manageable to be a mentor
Even if you have a busy work life and just as busy a private life, it is manageable to be a mentor and according to Marianne, it is very rewarding: ”The meetings with your mentee can be squzeed in between all the other task and projects. It is something between you and just one other person, so it doesn’t overrule the other considerations you need to take. It is an obvious opportunity to contribute and get in touch with new people. Every time I’ve been a mentor, it has been very enriching to meet a new set of curious eyes with wonder and a different look at my experiences and what I’m doing.”
The exciting thing about KVINFO’s Mentor Network is that it is a cultural meeting and that the relationship has a completely different degree of equality than when Marianne is a mentor in 3F, where she also a boss of the mentee: “KVINFO’s Mentor Network brings people together, who otherwise would not have met. In the Mentor Network, I can offer myself as a human being, my energy and something that I am passionate about. I can share my cultural understanding and societal and political insight with mentee. It is a gift to take some responsibility for another person and for the mentee to take responsibility for the relationship and to be outgoing and go beyond her own comfort zone. Emma and Juhae have conversely shared their insight into issues in Kenya, Tanzania and South Korea, so I have expanded my understanding and my horizons in these areas. ”
Advice to other mentors and mentees
Marianne has an ultra short advice for future mentors and mentees: “Go for it. Someone might be concerned about whether they should meet specific formal requirements and whether one can provide enough. But it is basically about curiosity about each other. It’s about listening to the mentee: Who are you, what are you coming with, where are you in your life, what appeals to you and what are you curious about? One must be available for that talk and take it from there. Then everyone can join. ”