How to Be a Mentor

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Learn how to be a mentor, and why it's so rewarding for you and your mentee!

When you were younger, did you have a strong figure to look up to and ask for guidance? Not your mom or dad, but a person that you trusted to be there and to be on your side? Maybe you did – lucky you. Maybe you didn’t. Humans no longer live in villages, where different ages of people mingle freely and the old and young interact.

Either way, rest assured that there is a young person in your life who could really use some attention, guidance and togetherness with an older, wiser human being. Learn how to be a mentor, and discover that this sort of relationship benefits both parties more than you would ever expect.

How to be a Mentor

1. Who will you mentor? Make a list of younger, less experienced people that are already in your life. Consider nieces, nephews and younger relatives. Family friends and neighbors are also good prospects. You may also want to mentor someone through work, such as an intern or new hire. Your local church may also have a mentorship program that you can get involved in. Finally, if you don’t know where to start – sign up for a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. They’ll set you up with a child or teenager who needs a mentor.

2. Keep it casual. Even if you’re officially matched with a partner through a non-profit organization, you don’t want to start off like a know-it-all who’s there to save the day. Even more so if the person you will mentor is a casual acquaintance. Remember: you’re just two humans, hanging out. Get to know the other person first and the mentorship will proceed naturally.

3. Plan outings and activities. If you want to become a trusted confidant of your tween-age niece, you don’t sit in a room and stare at each other for an hour. You go get ice cream. You shop for earrings. You feed ducks at the pond. You ride bikes by the river. Eventually, she’ll open up to you. For two adults, plan on meeting for coffee, take a walk in the park, or join up for a game of basketball. At the beginning of your relationship, shared activities are one of the best ways to start bonding. Try new experiences, and learn new things. Just make sure that you both will enjoy the outing.

4. Stay positive. Relationships are often built on a joint sharing of problems and pain. Not this one. Don’t dump your worries and anxieties on your new friend, which you might be tempted to as the relationship grows. Save your issues for your therapist. You must be an example of the power of positive thinking.

5. Share your insights and experiences – and your mistakes and failures. Many young people are surprised to find out that adulthood is full of problems, not the perfect escape from struggling that they imagined as a teenager. Share appropriate and helpful stories from your personal experience. Show your friend that challenges will arise in life, and that you can face them and come out on top.

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