Mentoring is a powerful force that can change the trajectory of a person’s life, and for Alex Gramatikov, this belief has become a mission. As the 23-year-old founder of the non-profit organization Mentor The Young, Alex has created a 3-month-long mentorship program that has already transformed the lives of more than 500 young people in Bulgaria.
The program is free and aims to advance the personal and career development of young people by pairing them with individual mentors who provide guidance and support. Within the first week of the program, each mentee sets three personal, career, or entrepreneurial goals that they seek to accomplish with the help of their mentor and the program’s more than 30 educational and networking events.
For Alex, the power of mentoring is personal. Through his own experience with mentorship since 2016, he has been able to turn his life around completely. He went from being a person with non-existent self-esteem to becoming an ambitious, proactive, and driven individual who is now dedicated to helping others.
The mission of Mentor The Young is to popularize and develop mentorship in Bulgaria, and over the last 18 months, Alex and his team have made significant progress. They have accepted, onboarded, and coordinated over 900 mentors and mentees, and have partnered with more than 40 corporations, SMEs, and startups.
The program recruits professionals who have the desire to help others and pairs them with young people seeking personal or career development or help solving a specific business problem. The participating young people are typically between 18 and 25 years old, with modest professional experience or without one. They are determined to improve their skills, enrich their knowledge, or realize their ideas, and for this purpose, they work with an individual mentor who is usually an experienced entrepreneur or professional in a management position in a socially responsible company.
Mentors in the program are volunteers, and the program is free for all young people. Through his passion and dedication, Alex is making a real impact on the lives of young people in Bulgaria, and with Mentor The Young, he is creating a community of support and encouragement that can change lives.
How to get into mentorship 101
“The first question that one has to answer is what I need to learn. Mentoring usually happens on a need-to-know basis or want-to-know basis. Naturally, working with a mentor becomes more productive and successful when there is a specific goal or challenge in a particular domain. Being aware of what I need and what I lack, I began to look for people who I believe have the answers,” Alex explains.
Yes, not all people in their 20s have a linked network of almost 6000 people. But Alex says that anyone can get into a mentoring relationship by following a very simple process.
- Define a goal to be achieved or a problem to be solved
- Do your homework by researching potential mentors
- Reach out with a very specific invitation asking for help with a specific thing
- Prepare for a meeting – define the topics you want to talk about in advance and define the desired outcomes.
- Be proactive and explain what you need help with in great detail. Mentoring is very context-based and works best when it’s specific.
The mentorship journey of Alex
The idea for Mentor the Young was formed less than two years ago out of Alex’s deep belief that mentoring works. “I have worked with many mentors over the years, but to a large extent, it was an unconscious process. In 2021 I did a retrospection of the ways I have developed and learned the most. It turned out to be through other people. Whether they were my managers, people I admired, or my peers – it was through mentors that I managed to define my direction and build the courage to start acting,” says Alex.
The reason for starting Mentor the Young was the observation that there was no such program or structure in Bulgaria that would allow young people between the age of 18 to 25 to experience the benefits of mentoring. Alex recognized that the program should have a dual role to support the 1:1 collaboration between a mentor and a mentee and to enable more meaningful special connections in the form of training, group events, and business simulations.
Alex himself shares that as he grows, his perspective on role models evolves. He proactively looks for individuals whose behaviors and attitudes can serve him as an example and strives to put himself in a zone of proximal development in relation to them.
His first informal mentor was Stefan Kyosev, Director of Business Development at Gugushev & Partners Law Office, with whom he worked as part of AIESEC, the largest student volunteer organization in the world. In the context of this organization, Alex had to lead a team and a project for the first time and Stefan was the man who taught him the ABC of leadership and project planning.
Currently, Alex is working with 4 mentors on a variety of personal and professional topics. In the field of sales and leadership, Alex receives mentorship from Theo Shikov, Founder of the recently acquired Out2Bound, who’s currently VP of Bulgarian Operations at MarketStar. Together with Petia Popova, HR Director at Gemseek, he works on topics connected to human resources and emotional intelligence, while Tony McMurray, Managing Director of Ingram Micro, teaches him real-life lessons on finances and strategic management. Lastly, Ognyan Vassilev, Chief of Staff at Salesforce, advises him on everything related to entrepreneurship and business development.