It Was Like Magic

By Sharon Livingstone

Image: Youjung Suh

Growing up in South Korea, Youjung Suh’s curiosity about how the mind and body work led her to a degree in Psychology. Youjung’s education continued on a trip to India to undertake yoga training and a 10-day meditation course but it was on holiday in Malaysia where Youjung was hit by the massage bug and her life changed.

After moving to Brisbane, Youjung completed the massage studies she started in Thailand and opened her own business 5 years ago. But Youjung didn’t want her learning journey to end there.

“I always wanted a mentor, just didn’t know when, where and how I will find one.”

A failed match through a government mentoring scheme didn’t put her off. Three months after joining AMT, Youjung leapt at the opportunity to participate in the second round of AMT’s mentoring program. It was serendipitous.

“I wanted to learn how to be better at what I do and find guidance and advice to make a healthy balance between work and life since work is a huge part of my life. Ultimately, my wishful thoughts were finding a fellow therapist I could be inspired by and share skills with.”

After applications for the AMT mentoring program close, an algorithm selects the best mentor/mentee pairings based on the responses provided to a detailed survey. The AMT program managers, Katie and Wendy, review the suggested pairings to ensure that they are appropriate, then the final pairings are advised via email, and mentor and mentee make contact with each other to nurture the mentoring partnership.

Like other relationships, some need work and some don’t work. For Youjung, the initial match wasn’t ideal so, determined to succeed, Youjung went back to the program coordinator and a new mentor was allocated.

Image: Maria Neilan

Maria Neilan jumped across the ditch from New Zealand into the rainforests of Far North Queensland, filling her time with animal rights activism and donating free hugs. Maria has been a massage therapist for 22 years, having worked as a massage instructor and owned a natural therapies school. Now working from a home-based clinic, Maria specialises in lymphatic drainage and Bowen Therapy.

Maria put her hand up to be a mentor in AMT’s mentoring program.

“When I saw the mentoring program opportunity I thought, why not, I have much to offer from years of experience in the industry. I’m good at listening and I love to assist, encourage and empower people on their own life/career journey. I think we all can do with someone cheering us on, inspiring us and asking what else is possible.”

Similar to Youjung, Maria’s first mentoring match didn’t work out either (they withdrew from the program).

First match doesn’t mean an ideal match,” explains Youjung. Neither were deterred though and although the program’s algorithm said they were a less than ideal match …

Maria laughs. “That’s funny. I didn’t know that apparently we weren’t the ideal match!”

… they were put in touch with each other.

When I read Maria’s application, I thought I would be happy if I could be in her position down the track. And when I received an email from her, I knew this is going to be a great one. (I never seen so many emojis in her email and, as emoji lover, I felt comfortable straight away.) I don’t want to sound corny but I think we were just meant to be!

Around 1700kms separate Maria and Youjung, meaning that their mentoring sessions were conducted by phone – no video chat or Facetime. They preferred this because they’re both auditory people. Before their scheduled session, Youjung emailed Maria with the topics she wanted to discuss.

Maria described why their match was so successful:

From day one I felt that we both connected and our relationship continued to grow into one of trust and respect, plus we were both so excited, committed and ready to make things happen. We are both very positive and motivated people so we bounced off each other a lot, with much enthusiasm and of course a little brainstorming along the way.”

Youjung added, “It was like magic!

During the 6-month program, Youjung received some upsetting family news but rather than let her become maudlin or let her career aspirations slide, Maria continued the mentoring arrangement. Youjung explains:

She was there with me when I was going through ups and downs. I felt so down that I decided not to expand my business, which was my goal that we set at the beginning of the mentoring program. Maria wasn’t bothered at all and rather so supportive. But she wasn’t shy to point out what I am lacking. What can I ask more about a mentor who could laugh and cry with me but also helps me to do better?

English is not Youjung’s first language and she worried about not understanding everything Maria discussed, “however, Maria doesn’t mind me asking her to repeat or rephrase. Because we both are willing to make this work, nothing came across as a problem.

A common theme in talking with Youjung and Maria is how determined they each were to make their mentoring relationship work. This helped them to work through any difficulties and be accommodating with session times and kept Youjung enthusiastic and motivated.

In signing up for the mentoring program, Youjung wanted to change up and grow her business. Assisted by Maria’s mentoring, Youjung is currently relocating her clinic. As Maria pointed out, with a positive attitude, Youjung “always took action after our sessions with whatever issues or goals that we discussed. She had dreams, goals and aspirations right from the start.

Mentoring isn’t a one-way street. Maria learnt a lot from her sessions with Youjung:

“It gave me a sense of purpose. It also inspired me on so many levels of what else is possible with my direction in life, it gave me increased communication skills, and extra confidence and I’m left feeling more professional and established as a therapist.”

The success of AMT’s mentoring program can be measured by the positive experiences and career development from participants but it can also be measured by winning an award, which is exactly what Maria did. Maria was nominated for an Art of Mentoring award, as part of International Mentoring Day (celebrated on January 17). She was a finalist and became one of six nominees who received a Highly Commended Award from Art of Mentoring for her work with Youjung.

I am blessed and honoured to have won an award. I’m still on cloud nine. It was such wonderful news to hear. Thank you to everyone that has made it possible: Youjung, Wendy, Rebecca and the Art of Mentoring program.

Youjung sings Maria’s praises:

Maria nailed it for her first mentoring. Besides all the great gut feeling I had, Maria is simply a kind and genuine person which made me in ease to be the way I am. She told me that she will be my soundboard and guidance. She was right about that! I’m so proud and happy for Maria. When I heard the news from Rebecca (at AMT), I was super excited like I got the award. I believe this was possible because we were willing and had genuinely powerful relationship. Maria just gets me! Congratulation Maria! I am so glad that I got to know you through this amazing program.

Thinking about getting a Mentor through AMT’s Mentoring Program?

Having a mentor is like having a lighthouse in the dark ocean. I knew what I was doing but lost at the same time before having a mentor. Now I become confident in my own skin and this made a great deal to be a better therapist. Even if doubts and concerns arise, I know whom to ask my silly questions. AMT’s Mentoring program helped me to be a better version of massage therapist and myself.”

Youjung suggests being prepared by reading the program materials and to communicate with the program consultant if unsure about anything. Expect some nervousness and remember to be honest with yourself and your mentor.

Thinking about being a Mentor?

Maria is keen to be a mentor again and has started down that road through the AMT mentoring program.

Mentoring can be such a rewarding and positive experience. To be able to assist someone in bringing out their highest potential is such an honour.

For anyone considering a stint as a mentor, Maria says to forget any self-doubt about not being a good mentor. She recommends mentors “go in with a positive attitude, maintain that positive attitude, and have a genuine care and concern for your mentee – this helps to build a sense of trust with each other, and allows both parties to feel comfortable with each other to really open up in conversation.”

Where to from here?

Maria and Youjung decided to stay in touch after the AMT Mentoring Program concluded, building on their supportive friendship.

Youjung says, “I am very grateful that I get to know Maria through this program, otherwise we might never come across to each other’s life.”

The AMT Board will present Maria with her Award at the AMT Annual General Meeting on 29 March in Brisbane. Youjung will be present for the occasion, so our magical pair will meet face-to-face for the first time.

Want to Get Involved?

Learn more about AMT’s mentoring program here and sign up as a mentor or mentee here. Applications for the program close on 25 March 2020.

About the Author

Sharon Livingstone is a massage therapist in Sydney, NSW. A love of sport drew her to the industry but discovering job satisfaction came from helping people live with less pain keeps her in it. Sharon is a writer, keen bushwalker and frustrated traveller who is also a coffee snob.

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