Since 2002, January has been recognized in the U.S. as National Mentoring Month. In January every year, mentors are celebrated and thanked for the great work they do. It is also a time for encouraging people to volunteer and be a mentor and positive role model for youths in their communities.
You can help young people succeed and achieve their dreams by sharing stories, guiding them and being there to listen. You can also be a mentor at work, sharing with your coworkers advice and tools they can use to do their best. ReNu Insurance Group wants to express their appreciation for those who mentor in any capacity, and offer some tips on how to be a great mentor, both at work and in your local community.
When being a mentor at work, it’s best to:
- Be organized. In your first meeting with your mentee, you should go over when and where you will meet, what form of communication works best for both parties, and set up a plan for if one of you needs to cancel. With all the responsibilities you need to juggle in the press of business, mentoring can fall by the wayside if you don’t keep to a schedule.
- Study education skills. The same way that being stellar in your field will not automatically make you a great teacher, gaining a good deal of experience and success in your work will not automatically make you a great mentor. You should study and hone your skills in being a good listener, building trust, learning to ask good questions, etc.
- Share stories about failure as well as success. With mentoring relationships in workspaces, the mentee may be hesitant and nervous about sharing their shortcomings with a superior. Telling mentees about times you failed or messed up, and what you did to fix the situation, will make them feel safer about opening up.
- Discern when to listen vs. solve. While it is tempting (and at times may be appropriate) to offer a direct answer or solution to an issue, much of a mentee’s growth comes from being guided to solve problems on their own. Sometimes it is better to focus on nurturing rather than solving.
- Invest in the relationship. This person could be a very valuable part of your network in the future. If you open doors for your mentee by sharing contacts and opportunities, you will not only be helping them further their career, but also adding a person to your business network who should be willing to go to bat for you, knowing you did it for them.
The objectives for mentoring someone at work are much different than mentoring youth, so we want to give you some tips specific to being a positive role model for young people outside of your work environment.
- Be a friend. When you’re mentoring at work, providing negative, constructive feedback is important for your mentee’s development, but the best thing you can do while mentoring youth is to always be on their side and not act like an authority figure. Be there to listen without judgment, and only provide advice when asked.
- Help them set goals and celebrate success. The whole point of mentoring a young person is to help them build self-esteem, achieve success and be happy, right? Early on, try to establish goals, both large and small, and make it a point to celebrate when they reach any goal.
- Have fun! Give your mentee the option of choosing activities they’d like to do during your time together. Having fun with you will make them more invested in the relationship and encourage them to look forward to seeing you.
- Take it slow. Don’t ask too many personal questions too quickly. Building trust takes time. Let them vent about school, family, friends or whatever is on their mind. It’s better to listen more than you speak.
- Respect confidentiality. Once you’ve established a trusting relationship with your mentee, they may want to talk about things that would be embarrassing or get them into trouble if discovered by their family or teachers. Keep the same rules of confidentiality as a therapist. Do not disclose anything your mentee tells you unless you think they are planning to harm themselves or someone else.
- Be responsible for staying in touch. Remember that it is your responsibility to be there for your mentee. Unlike in a professional environment where the onus is on the mentee to maintain the mentorship, you should do everything in your power to reach out to your mentee if they miss a meeting.
If you are interested in mentoring an individual or group, here are just a few organizations you can contact about volunteering:
We at ReNu Insurance Group would like to express our gratitude to all the mentors who have helped us in the past. We also want to express our appreciation for those current mentors who offer either career guidance or counsel on life in general. Mentoring is very rewarding and we want to encourage anyone interested to get out there and go for it! Happy National Mentoring Month!