What Is A Mentor?

The word Mentor comes from the Greek language and means a wise guide

Traditionally, a mentor was an older, more experienced person, who became responsible for grooming a younger person to fill a role

From the Middle Ages art, craft and commerce were learned in a master/apprentice relationship, e.g. a shoemaker training another in the art of making shoes
Still today apprentices learn a trade/job skills from those more experienced than themselves

A mentor of adolescents takes on a more challenging role than the master/apprentice relationship. A mentor will, hopefully, be both a friend and a role model to the mentee at a time in his/her life when the influence of peers is of the utmost importance.

You can discover hundreds and tips and strategies in the Manual I have used to train over 1,000 mentors and which has been used successfully by other youth mentoring programs. It can be purchased here.

The value of the mentoring process lies in watching a person of genuine wisdom and character surmount obstacles, solve problems and overcome mistakes. The secret to profoundly influencing others as a mentor lies in honesty, transparently opening our lives to inspection warts and all.
Ron Lee Davis

A Mentor IS

  • a friend
  • a motivator
  • a guide
  • a coach
  • a tutor
  • a companion
  • a resource
  • a confidant
  • a listener
  • a cheerleader
  • a supporter
  • an advocate
  • an advisor
  • a sounding-board
  • a networker
  • a negotiator
  • a role model

A Mentor IS NOT

  • a trained counsellor
  • a therapist
  • a saviour
  • a cool peer
  • a parole officer
  • a foster parent
  • a bank/ATM machine
  • a mentee’s scheming sidekick
  • a mentee’s private secretary
  • a taxi
  • a social worker
  • a personal adviser
  • a parent
  • a baby sitter
  • a disciplinarian
  • a psychologist
  • a psychiatrist
  • a nag
The real search of adolescents is for love, understanding and significance. To be a life-changing agent in a mentee’s life, it’s important for the mentor to learn how to both care and share, these being two important qualities as the connection between mentor and mentee is developed.

The mentor is encouraged to take the initiative in the relationship. The mentor might feel insecure with the mentee, but the mentor should remember that adolescents feel even more insecure with an adult. The mentor needs to make the move and be prepared to go 80% of the way to have a relationship with the mentee. Don’t expect much initial response from the mentee – their small talk is important to them (boyfriends/girlfriends, TV, X-Box, iPods, iPhones, SMS, Internet Chat Rooms, sport, a party coming up, music etc.) so be patient. Small talk can lead to big talk.

As the mentee needs to feel important at all times, the mentor should take an active interest in how he or she is doing. The mentor is encouraged to make the mentee the central focus of their time together – my mentee is a special person. Affirm the mentee – actively look for good characteristics and qualities and never hesitate to compliment the mentee, no matter how small the compliment might appear to be to the mentor.