Mentoring has had a huge impact on my life. Without the mentors who have believed in and made time for me over my journey, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. My empowering experience as a young person with mentoring has led me to become a mentor myself, and give back. I’ve mentored primary school age children through different programs, as well as young women in high school and University. It’s from my deep love for mentoring as both a mentor, and mentee, that I’ve written this piece on what I believe is best practice on how to mentor youth.
But to start off with, what is mentoring?
Mentoring at its core is relational. It is a relational partnership based on trust and respect between someone more experienced, and someone eager to learn and develop personally and/or professionally. Saying that, mentoring should also be understood as reciprocal. Its relational nature means both the mentor and mentee grow through the relationship. It is two-way learning.
Why mentor youth? What are the benefits/outcomes?
The depth and breadth of the benefits of mentoring is wide. From confidence to career development, the benefits on each person as a whole are unique and vary from relationship to relationship. Young people grow as leaders and often learn a huge amount from their mentor’s experience which can shape their journey in a big way. Mentors often get a lot out of giving back and investing in young people, and are usually always energised and inspired from the relationship.
How to mentor youth – 6 top tips
I’ve identified 6 areas of best-practice.
1. See mentoring as a journey
Mentoring is a process for both the mentor and mentee. While it’s important to have a clear purpose and goals, the destination isn’t the focus – it’s the journey that really counts.
2. Be strengths based
A strengths based approach to engaging with young people is essential. Strengths-based means understanding that a young person’s learning is dynamic and holistic. It’s about seeing the young person as an individual and looking for opportunities to complement and support existing strengths and capacities as opposed to focusing on problems or negatives.
3. Be mentee driven/young person focused
Young people are amazing, and every young person is unique. They’ll have interests, passions and ideas about areas they’d like to grow in. Ask open questions to get an idea of where they’d like the relationship going instead of making assumptions and leading the relationship around your (mentor’s) needs.
3. Demonstrate trust and respect
The best mentoring relationships have very high levels of trust and respect. Respecting the young person for who they are and creating a supportive, safe space for your relationship will ensure you both get the most out of the mentoring experience.
4. Be Reciprocal and relational in nature
Two-way learning is where it’s all at. No matter how much you may know or how much experience you have, we promise you there is always something you can learn from a young person. Be open to growing in the relationship alongside the young person.
5. Have a clear purpose
From your first meeting it’s really important to set a clear purpose for the relationship. What would you both like to get out of the relationship? Is the focus personal or professional growth? Would you like to focus on some key areas (i.e. time management, leadership, or a particular skill like public speaking)? Set some clear goals around your focus areas and review these every 2-3 months to see how you’re progressing.
6. Use Structure
Structure gives feet to your relationship. It’s important both you and your mentee are both on the same page about how often you’d like to meet and where is best to meet. Meeting in a café, rather than your home/office, is also suggested to ensure the focus is on your time together.
- I’ve just developed the new Go for Gold! Young Women’s mentoring program in my role at Duke of Ed Vic. If you’re keen to get involved and mentor a young woman completing her Gold Duke of Ed Award in Victoria, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for an information pack and details about our upcoming training
- For more great youth mentoring opportunities and resources on ‘how to mentor youth’ check out the Australian Youth Mentoring Network