Why Mentor?

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on young people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, as well as social and economic opportunities. Yet the majority of young people will grow up without this critical asset.


Think back to a time when someone, other than a parent, brought a little magic into your life by being just there? By being a mentor, you can be that person in the life of a young adult and you will build memories through an enduring relationship that will change someone’s life forever and give you fulfillment. Through mentoring, you can make a difference in your community, nation and the world.

 
 
Importance of Mentors

When you were young, did you know how to study for a test or make plans for secondary school or tertiary institutions? Do you remember your first experience with shaving or a relationship or looking for a part-time job? Simple things that may seem easy or straightforward to you now may be a complete mystery to a young person. Mentors are important for the following:

Daily Life: By being a consistent adult presence in a young person’s life mentors can offer advice, share their life experiences, and help a young person navigate challenges. Mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Young adults with mentors are likely to avoid risky behavior, deal with depression and are exposed to opportunities and higher aspirations.


Education: Young adults with mentors are more likely to excel in school and stay focused while avoiding reckless behavior, being resilient to situational pressure and questionable influences. Such people stand a better chance of higher education with guidance on courses and possible career path. Mentoring can be a sure way of curbing the recent incidents of suicides due to disappointment and other academic challenges.
 
Career: By preparing young people for college and careers, mentoring helps develop the future workplace talent pipeline. Mentors can also prepare their mentees for professional careers and assist with their workplace skills by:

  • Helping set career goals and taking the steps to realize them.

  • Using personal contacts to help young people network with industry professionals, find internships, and locate possible jobs.

  • Introducing young people to resources and organizations they may not be familiar with.

  • Assisting with skills for seeking a job, interviewing for a job, and keeping a job.

 
What Makes a Good Mentor?

Before becoming a mentor, here are a few things to understand about the role of mentoring. Most of us have had a teacher, supervisor or coach who has been a mentor to us and made a positive difference in our lives. Those people wore many hats, acting as delegators, role models, cheerleaders, policy enforcers, advocates, and friends. Mentors assume these different roles during the course of a relationship, and share some basic qualities:

  • A sincere desire to be involved with a young person

  • Respect for young people

  • Active listening skills

  • Empath

  •  Ability to see solutions and opportunities

  • Stable and of sound mind

  • Can provide leadership

  • Reliable

  • Committed

  • Non-judgmental

  • Discreet (will keep information confidential)

  • Has a good sense of humor

  • Patient and Tolerant

  • Does not attempt to replace parent or guardian 

  • Flexibility

 
What Makes a Good Mentor?

Establish a positive, personal relationship with mentee:


Establish mutual trust and respect;

  • Maintain regular interaction and consistent support; and

  • Make your meetings enjoyable and fun.

 
Help mentee to develop or begin to develop life skills:

  • Work with your mentee to accomplish specific program goals (e.g., drop-out prevention, general career awareness); and

  • Instill the framework for developing broader life-management skills, (e.g., decision-making skills, goal-setting skills, conflict resolution, money management).

 
Assist mentee in obtaining additional resources:

  • Provide awareness of community, educational and economic resources available to youth and their families, and how to access these resources. Act as a resource broker as opposed to a resource provider;

  • Act as a guide and/or advocate, coach and/or model; and

  • Avoid acting as a professional case manager. View the role of a mentor as a friend rather than a counselor.

 
Increase mentee’s ability to interact with people/groups/things from various backgrounds (cultural, racial, socioeconomic, etc.):

  • Respect and explore differences among people/groups from various backgrounds. Do not promote values and beliefs of one group as superior to those of another; and

  • Introduce mentee to different environments, such as workplace vs. school setting; discuss differences in behavior, attitude and style of dress.

 
A Mentor Is Not . . .

Mentors must understand that they cannot be all things to their mentees. Quite often when mentors run into problems in their relationships, it is because the mentor, the mentee or the parent/legal guardian did not understand the proper role of a mentor.
 
The mentor may have taken on one of the following inappropriate roles:
 
A parent/legal guardian
The role of a parent or legal guardian (governed by law) is to provide food, shelter and clothing. It is not the mentor’s role to fulfill these responsibilities. If the mentor believes his or her mentee is not receiving adequate support, he or she should contact the mentor program coordinator rather than trying to meet the needs of his or her mentee.
 
A social worker
A social worker is a licensed professional with the necessary skills and training to assist in family issues. If a mentor believes there is something wrong in the mentee’s home life, the mentor should share this concern with the mentor program coordinator and not assume the role of a social worker and attempt to solve the problem.
 
A psychologist
A mentor is not a formal counselor or therapist. A psychologist or psychiatrist is a licensed professional.
 
It is more appropriate for a mentor to act as a resource broker and show the mentee how to access the services and resources he or she needs than to provide those services.

 
How Do I Become a Mentor?

Being mentor is something anyone can do. The key requirements are a willingness to be a friend, to have fun, and see the world (and yourself) through the eyes of a young person. A mentor can open a world of possibilities and opportunities for a young person simply by being a genuine friend. The following may be required to be part of this family:

  • The applicant’s family relationships and history;

  • Interests and leisure time activities;

  • Attitudes and belief system;

  • Experiences working with children and adults;

  • State of mental health;

  • Level of flexibility, time commitments and ability to sustain relationship;

  • Education;

  • Strengths and weaknesses.

Please note that mentoring program staff conduct checks on all employment and personal references and may conduct criminal background checks on all prospective mentors. Results of these checks are kept confidential. Applicants who pass all the screening processes are notified, congratulated and invited to become mentors in the program.
Applicants sign an agreement to:

  • Make a one-year commitment;

  • Attend training sessions;

  • Engage in the relationship with an open mind;

  • Be on time for scheduled meetings;

  • Keep discussions with youth confidential (except where youth’s safety or well-being is at risk);

  • Ask for help when needed;

  • Accept guidance from program staff;

  • Notify staff if they are having difficulty in their mentoring relationship;

  • Notify the program coordinator if they are unable to keep their weekly mentoring session;

  • Notify the program coordinator of any changes in their employment, address and telephone number;

  • Notify the program coordinator of a significant change in their mentee; and

  • Refrain from contacting or seeing the mentee outside of the established parameters and supervised sites where the program takes place.

 
Get Started

You have made a wonderful and very important decision in choosing to become a mentor. If you’ve reached this conclusion, you’ve done enough research to have an idea of how different each mentoring situation can be. Before you start to look at the programs that are available, think about and identify your own interests and needs. Finding a mentoring program you’re excited about and comfortable with can require some time and thought, but the good news is that there’s something for everyone. The following steps will help walk you through the process of choosing a mentoring program that is right for you. To help you decide which type of mentoring program you want, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What time commitment can I make?

  • What age of youth would I like to work with?

  • Would I like to work with one young adult or with a group of young adults?

  • What types of activities interest me? Do I want to help a youth learn a specific skill, pursue an interest, help with education and/or career or just be a caring adult friend?

  • What mentoring type do I prefer?

While thinking about these questions, remember to be open and flexible to all the different mentoring programs and focus areas that are out there.

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