- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
Mentors play a critical role in both the professional and personal development of many individuals. Today on “Thank Your Mentor Day,” we pay tribute to these unsung heroes, confidants, educators, friends and advisors who help us succeed each and every day. We turned to iMentor, a special group that facilitates mentoring relationships using a unique combination of email exchanges and in-person meetings, for mentoring advice and guidance.
This special two-part blog post (visit SocialCitizens.org) celebrates the 10th anniversary of National Mentoring Month (NMM). Created by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR, NMM draws attention to the need for mentors, and celebrates how we can work together to help young people from all walks of life find their own success.
Can you share a few tips for mentors who are currently helping a young person - whether that’s in school, professionally or personally?
Here is some advice that we give to volunteers who sign up with iMentor:
Consistency: The most important trait a mentor can exhibit is consistency. It is crucial for mentors to follow through when they make promises. It’s also crucial for mentors to communicate regularly with their mentees. Even if your mentee doesn’t warm up to you right away, you can be a presence in their life. Be patient! It may take a while, but consistency is the first step towards building mutual trust.
Collaboration: It’s also important for mentors to give their mentees a say in how mentoring relationships evolve. Successful mentoring relationships are partnerships, in which the mentor and mentee collaborate to set goals. When you meet your mentee, find out who they are and what makes them tick. Ask your mentee how you can support them and reciprocate by sharing your own ideas. This will help you build mutual respect and trust.
Persistence: The single most important thing for mentors to remember is that mentoring is not always intuitive. Being a mentor is a skill that develops over time. Sometimes being a mentor is hard, and you may not know what to do. While this is perfectly normal, it can sometimes be scary, especially in situations where you are supposed to be “the expert.” When you feel this way, ask for help. If you’re mentoring through a formal program, ask program staff for guidance. If you’re not involved with a formal program, reach out to a friend or trusted colleague for advice. We think that growing into a better mentor is one of most rewarding parts of the mentoring experience.
What are some of the most common reasons a mentoring relationship does not succeed? Do you have advice for those who may be experiencing any of these red flags?
There are many reasons that mentoring relationships aren’t always successful. Here are two common challenges and suggestions for those who might be experiencing them:
Lack of motivation: Sometimes, mentors may be discouraged because their mentees do not seem to be committed to their relationships. Mentees might fail to show up for events, or they may miss several emails in a row. When this happens, it is often because mentees do not understand how mentors can play a positive role in their lives. To steer relationships back onto the right path, iMentor encourages mentors to have goal-setting conversations with their mentees. Mentors should encourage mentees to articulate what they want to get out of their relationships. Once this happens, mentors can lead relationships in this direction.
Not seeing the impact right away: Change is subtle and can sometimes take years. Regardless, sometimes mentors are eager to make a difference and want to see tangible changes in their mentees’ lives after short periods of time. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t happen, mentors can sometimes get discouraged and give up. Mentors in this situation should hang on and have faith that they are making a difference, even if it isn’t always visible.
It is important to realize that teenagers don’t always articulate the impact that adults make on their lives. To encourage your mentee to open up, model open behavior. Make a point to tell your mentee how the relationship has impacted you, and then encourage your mentee to do the same. Ask your mentee how you can be helpful, which will help you judge your impact. Context can be reassuring. Sometimes it helps to speak to other mentors about their experiences, which will help you set more realistic expectations.
Special thanks to iMentor’s Brooke Bryant, Development Manager; Ellen Mahoney, Director of Volunteers; and Unique Fraser, Director of Curricula for contributing to this piece. This year, iMentor is serving 1,800 high school students in New York City and bringing its online program nationwide through partnerships with schools and nonprofits in over 20 states.