Business News

Mentoring: Two examples, different lessons

Nothing teaches you more about something than having to teach someone else how to do it.

You hear this from many teachers. You may have learned it at one time or another yourself.

There's a shining example of this in Jersey City. It's a program called New City Kids. As part of the non-profit's rubric, it employs inner-city high school students to tutor and mentor younger kids on everything from school work to music. In the process, the older kids tend to become more attentive and proficient in their own studies. As a result, over 90 percent of these New City Kids interns have graduated from or are currently enrolled in college.

Now contrast this with the "Welcome to the Jungle"-memo story this past week. That's where a Barclays investment banker welcomed his unit's new class of summer interns with a list of abusive workplace goals and rules. Example: interns should keep an extra tie or scarf handy, as their supervisors may run out of napkins.

What's sad about this tale is that such practices aren't uncommon in the financial workplace; it's just rare that a banker is so incautious as to write it down.

The two situations aren't the same. One is about a faith-based organization helping disadvantaged kids get ahead in life through an insightful mentoring program. The other is about some presumably well-off kids getting the equivalent of some ham-handed fraternity hazing.

But at the heart of both examples is the mentoring process and what it says about the teacher, as well as the student.

Think about all the banking scandal headlines lately. If teaching is learning and mastering a subject, maybe Wall Street should make a call to Jersey City.

-- Allen Wastler is managing editor of CNBC Digital.

(Disclosure: I became familiar with New City Kids through a charity event this week put together by my brother-in-law).