Dr. Samantha Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian, bestselling author, and founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA. A respected authority on the civilian impact of war, international aid and foreign policy, she has worked with children and their families on the frontlines of many of the world’s major crises — from Iraq to Afghanistan, Somalia to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone to Darfur, Sudan. She has not only been a mentor to many women within her organization and out, she has also benefitted greatly from mentorship in her own career. Dr.Nutt shares her advice for women looking for their own mentor, including what qualities to look for.
How can mentorship impact your career?
Mentorship at different times in my life and my career have made the world of difference. We all need someone who believes in us — people who are willing to invest in you, have confidence in you, support you unconditionally, and make you believe in yourself. There are many examples that I could give you, that started in adolescence and went into medical school, and professionally in the international work that I do.
What advice would you give to a woman looking for a mentor?
I firmly believe that you have to seek those people out, and sometimes that can be hard. I’m not talking about randomly sending off emails to solicit mentors — it tends not to work that way! It’s about looking around yourself as you go through your career and identifying those people that you believe in, that have achieved the kinds of things that you would like to achieve, or that have skills and strengths that are very different from yours, in areas where you may want to grow and improve. Really try to make those introductions, start cultivating a relationship, and hope that becomes something deeper and longer term. Whether you are formally calling it a mentorship, and acknowledging it as such — or maybe it’s informal, just the occasional email, coffee conversation, or phone call that helps provide some perspective and support when you really need it.
What are some of the qualities of an effective mentor?
Fundamentally, a mentor is someone that you feel that you can trust, that you can can be painfully honest with, that you can reveal your deepest insecurities to, and that will give you honest, non-judgmental advice. For it to work effectively, you are putting yourself out there and being boldly honest about where you want to go in life and what you think your strengths and your weaknesses are, or what’s holding you back — your fears and insecurities. And so you want someone who is going to take that information and understand what to do with it and understand how to help you work through it.
In what ways does War Child support mentorship in the organization?
We are very much an organization that believes in the advancement and promotion of women all around the world, and so mentorship and helping and supporting other women is absolutely critical to everything we do. Many of the organizations we partner with are female-headed, local civil society organizations. So making sure we are nurturing their leadership, their potential — that we are mentoring them in this work so that their own organizations can grow and thrive, even outside of their relationship with us as a partner, that’s part of our philosophy as an international organization. Our entire development philosophy has an element of mentorship, capacity building, and leadership development for people in all corners of the world affected by war, and the vast majority of those would be women and girls.