What makes a good mentor

by Donald Belver  |  December 09, 2020

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
  • Empathy
  • Ability to see solutions and opportunities
  • Flexibility

BENEFITS

Mentoring relationships are a shared opportunity for learning and growth. Many mentors say that the rewards they gain are as substantial as those for their mentees, and that mentoring has enabled them to:

  • Have fun
  • Achieve personal growth and learn more about themselves
  • Improve their self-esteem and feel they are making a difference
  • Gain a better understanding of other cultures and develop a greater appreciation for diversity
  • Feel more productive and have a better attitude at work
  • Enhance their relationships with their own children

Above all, a good mentor is willing to take the time to get to know their mentee, to learn new things that are important to the young person, and even to be changed by their relationship.

So – are you ready?

Find a mentoring opportunity today! Using the Mentoring Connector, the only national database of mentoring programs, you can search for a variety of programs in your community and connect with them directly about volunteering.

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 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 child or with a group of children?
  • Would I like to team with other adults to mentor a child or a group of children?
  • What types of activities interest me? Do I want to help a youth learn a specific skill, pursue an interest, help with schoolwork, orjust be a caring adult friend?
  • What mentoring location would 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.

Find the Right Program

As you start to review the mentoring programs available to you, be sure to consider at least three different organizations. You are offering to make a substantial commitment of your time. Be thorough in investigating your options before you choose the program that best suits your needs.

  • After you have selected several possible programs, talk to each organization’s volunteer coordinator.
  • Tell the coordinator you are thinking about mentoring a young person—or a group of young people—and would like to know if their organization offers volunteer opportunities for adults.
  • Describe the amount of time you have, the types of activities you are interested in and the number of children you would like to mentor.
  • Ask about the process the program uses to match young people with mentors.
  • Identify the different mentoring options the program offers (one-to-one mentoring, team mentoring, short-term mentoring, one-time projects, etc.).

Ask the coordinator about training and support for volunteers and about the application and screening process. The application process can include a written application, personal and professional references, a background check, and a personal interview. Don’t be discouraged if the first program you select doesn’t match your needs or you don’t match its needs. If that happens, try again! Ask to be referred to another organization, or contact your State or Local Mentoring Partnership for another referral. After selecting a program that feels like a good fit, you will move on to the application process.

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