Mentoring: Sharing Lives, Building Futures
Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. ~John Crosby
Have you ever been encouraged to push a little harder, maybe go a little further than your comfortable? Has someone inspired you to be your very best? If you answered yes, then you’ve had firsthand experience with the benefits of a mentor.
What, exactly is mentoring? Some consider it a form of counseling, while others call it leadership … basically mentoring is an agreement between two people – a mentor and a mentee – and the idea is that the mentor has the “been there, done that” experience to help the mentee grow in knowledge, understanding and maturity.
How could this possibly relate to you? What’s the catch? What else is involved? What could you gain from a mentoring relationship?
There are as many different types of mentoring opportunities and relationships as there are mentors and mentees. There are career mentoring programs, and volunteer programs for disadvantaged children; programs for those with disabilities and for those going through major life transitions – unwed teen mothers for example.
Some relationships are formally established through an organization or institution while others arise informally as a response to one individual’s needs and another’s expertise and selfless generosity in the sharing of such.
Regardless of the type, all mentoring relationships share an aspect of teaching and learning on the parts of the mentor and mentee. In a mentoring situation that works, both individuals grow. The mentor has the opportunity to share from years of experience and, by doing so, gains even more experience and the satisfaction of making a difference in someone’s life. The mentee is given the opportunity to learn from firsthand experience, avoid many of the mistakes made by the mentor and gain self-confidence in the process.
Types of Mentoring Programs
Private Organization-Sponsored Mentoring for Youth
Programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Boys and Girls Club of America are among the most well-known and popular mentoring programs in the U.S. Designed in part to provide positive role models to children deemed to be “at risk,” these programs are based upon informal instruction administered through companionship and role modeling in social situations.
Public Government-Sponsored Mentoring for Youth
Some mentoring programs are conceived, funded or administered through local, state or federal agencies. President Barack Obama’s Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative is one such program. According to Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, the Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative is meant “to raise awareness about responsible fatherhood and re-engage absent fathers with their families.”
College and University-Sponsored Mentoring for Students
To address poor freshman performance in the classroom and lack of participation in the collegiate community, some colleges and universities have established voluntary mentoring programs for their incoming students. Freshmen mentees are partnered with upper-class mentors to help bridge the gap between high school academic expectations and those of higher learning.
I Could Be, a New York-based nonprofit, is just one of a growing number of groups specializing in e-mentoring. “Kids today are digital natives; their comfort level with building relationships online is through the roof. What we find is that the technology is such a leveler … that the kids are not afraid to ask (mentors) the questions they really want to know: ‘How much money do you make? What’s your average day like? Rather than sitting across the desk from somebody that’s older, somebody that’s from a different world than you, online all those barriers disappear” says Kate Schrauth, Executive Director.
Note: Since many of the mentees in e-mentoring programs are teens and pre-teens more personal information is required of potential mentors and there is normally some sort of background check to address security concerns for the welfare of the minors.
Employer-Sponsored and Informal Mentoring for Employees
Some larger companies are now incorporating formal mentoring programs to assist new employees during and after general orientation in recognition of the tremendous amount of time and money invested in each new hire. A new employee, joined with an employee more established in the corporate culture, is more likely to succeed and remain with the company.
Like to learn more?
If mentoring interests you, either as a mentor or a mentee, please understand that while the time involved varies widely from as little as an hour a week to daily interactions, the bottom line is mentoring is a commitment. The mentor must be willing to give of him or herself to the mentee, to show strengths and weaknesses, and to be brutally honest when needed. The mentee must be open to learning and accepting direction, and committed to doing the work.
In addition to the links provided above, the Guide to the Mentor Programs contains listings to hundreds of mentor programs for a wide variety of needs and locations. For community or regional mentoring and volunteer opportunities try a simple Google search with your area of interest. For a global perspective on e-mentoring, check out Infinite Family’s e-mentoring program for African teens and pre-teens whose families have been devastated by HIV/AIDS. And if you’re looking for a career mentoring program, don’t hesitate to talk to your employer … you might just be surprised at the opportunities available to you!
Mentoring is not only a gift to the direct mentee, but to the community, and in many cases to the world.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post … I’d like to share with you that this was a collaborative effort between myself and freelance writer Melissa Crossman. Melissa has the distincion of having been our first guest author and writes extensively about education and technology on behalf of American Intercontinental University at http://www.aiuniv.edu/.
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