10 Keys to Connecting with a Mentee
1. Meet on ‘neutral turf’ in public places as often as you can in the early months, for safety and security reasons. Meet at the same time and the same place for the first few meetings to establish the rapport.
2. Keep the focus on your mentee. Encourage mentees to talk about their lives, their interests, their things. Talk as little as possible about yourself and, when you do so, it’s good to obtain their permission first.
3. Do things that your mentee wants to do whenever possible. Refer to ‘The Spirit of Mentoring – a manual for adult volunteers’ when you need ideas.
4. Remember the importance of empathy. Try to gain some understanding of where your mentee is coming from. Don’t go into the relationship with any great ‘rescuing’ or ‘saving’ ideas or your relationship will be doomed from the start.
5. Keep focusing on the fun element. You can have great conversations in your car, going for a walk etc. ie, doing things together.
6. Be patient! It takes time for two strangers to connect. Don’t begin the relationship with unrealistic expectations. Remember, too, that there is a six to eight week ‘probationary’ period, during which time you and the mentee can decide whether or not you want to continue meeting (where applicable).
7. If your mentee seems to be uncomfortable with you, as the adult don’t take this personally. Maybe the young person will be prepared to persevere and get to know you better. Maybe not! Programme staff will communicate with both parties to work out a positive way forward.
8. If your mentee is not in a good space, which can literally happen overnight, try to understand that this is why many of these young people are participating in a youth mentoring programme. Great mentors persevere, hang in there, are patient, wait until the young person is ready to re-engage and let the Programme staff take the lead. There is a chance that the mentoring relationship might fold. Again, don’t take it personally.
9. Make sure you set negotiated boundaries at the outset. Don’t get too intense, trying to contact your mentee too often during the early weeks of the relationship, as you might frighten the mentee away.
10. Contact the Programme staff if you are concerned about anything to do with your mentoring relationship, no matter how trivial something might seem to you. Programme staff are there to support and guide you as best as they possibly can.