Getting Started as a Mentor

Getting Started as a Mentor

Take advantage of the opportunity to give back and help others with these mentorship tips.

Think back five, 10, 15 years – you’ve come a long way in your life and career, and learned a lot along the way. Maybe you had strong adults in your life to guide you through all of this, but it’s also very possible you had to go it alone and navigate your own path. In either case, having an adult who’s not a parent, who can offer guidance and be a positive role model, can be extraordinarily beneficial. Enter: the mentor-mentee relationship. Whether it’s a young student or someone coming up your career path, it’s a great way to share your knowledge and make a difference in someone’s life. You can be the person they trust to come to with their challenges, help them learn new skills, and offer guidance and expertise. Besides: you’re going to have fun in the process.

So you found a mentee. Now what should you do? Well, for starters, make an effort to connect. Find out what your mentee is interested in. Being engaged in an activity he or she enjoys is a great backdrop for productive conversations, gives you something to discuss so you don’t need to stress about lulls, and will make bonding feel natural – not forced. Just pick a location that encourages conversation; so, you know, no movies. And never be afraid to expand the horizons of your mentee’s experience (taking someone from a rural area to the city or taking someone from the city to go hiking outdoors, trying new foods, etc.), especially further into your relationship once there’s a base level of trust and understanding. After all, you are there to help your mentee learn and grow.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. See the City
It doesn’t need to feel like a school field trip. Treat it like you would a day with your girlfriends – even consider bringing them along too. Museums often offer free/discounted entry days, and offer plenty to discuss and learn along the way. Do a little bit of window shopping. Get your nails painted. It’s the perfect excuse to visit a nearby town, check out that place you’ve always meant to go, and fit cultural time into your busy schedule.


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2. Time to Learn
Take a cooking class, a painting class, a gardening class, a photography class – you name it. It makes for great bonding to learn something new together, and bonus points for choosing one that makes for an experience your mentee would not have otherwise had. For something a little less formal, you can cook, garden or do other activities at your home with your mentee. Sure, it will involve a little more cleanup, but you’ll also have an extra set of hands to help.

3. Be in Touch
Busy schedules may limit the frequency of important in-person time (vital side note: be sure to discuss and define expectations with your mentee upfront, so you can figure out a setup that is satisfactory and beneficial to you both), but that doesn’t mean you can’t be in communication. Set up regular phone calls, read a book together that you’ll meet to discuss over lunch, and email each other questions, ideas and articles. Handwrite letters to each other. You can even go so far as to do some DIY stationery and stamps to use for your correspondence. These little, easy measures will go a long way toward building a trusting and lasting mentor-mentee relationship.

4. Take a Hike
Whether it’s a stroll in a park or a hike in the woods, get moving. Walking while talking and/or thinking has been shown to lead to creative ideas, in addition to the general benefits of exercise and being outdoors. Why not share that?

5. Money Basics
You know how your school taught you a lot about algebra and little to nothing about things like opening a bank account, filing your taxes, budgeting or building a good credit score? Yeah, that hasn’t changed. On top of those finance fundamentals, you probably have a few tricks to saving money they may not have considered – buying in bulk, clipping coupons, our learning a useful skill like quilting or knitting. Learning to sew on a button can save her from having to abandon that shirt altogether.

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