1. Step outside of your comfort zone. I’m pretty shy when first meeting someone but this doesn’t mean I don’t have gems to offer my mentee. The only thing though, is that my mentee is the same way. We were both acting very reserved in our first couple of meet-ups and I had to take the first step toward breaking down that barrier. If you know me, you know I am far from reserved when I’m in good company. I found that we have way more in common than just our shyness but it took me opening up to get her to revel herself to me. This type of relationship is unique because it exists solely for her betterment. I had to remember this and be open to the process.
2. Talk the talk and walk the walk. It’s one thing to tell your mentee to do well in school, always put your best effort forward, try new things, etc. But it’s another thing to show them these things. I could advise my mentee on things like education and spirituality but it wasn’t until I demonstrated examples of these things that she really began to take on the meaning and apply them to her life.
3. Be interested. Simply showing up is just not enough. You have to ask questions and be engaged in their stories. What looks like a molehill to you might look like a mountain to them. Regardless, listen actively and reply (if necessary) and mindfully. Most of their stories won’t even need a response, they just require an ear, a caring one.
4. Mentoring keeps you young. I hadn’t been in touch with my teenage self since 2004 and I have to say, I had forgotten many of my lofty aspirations. In learning about my mentee, I re-learned some things about myself. The innocence of youth affords us a clean and optimistic outlook on life, love and relationships and although we may be adults, this innocence can easily rub off on us when encountered frequently and intimately enough. I’m often quoted as saying “The fountain of youth is in the gym.” But it is also in our interactions with young people.
5. Never, ever, has any relationship been perfect. Even in a thoroughly mapped out, scheduled and prompted dialogue between child and adult, there will be a few snags. People are all uniquely designed by their experiences and I learn this truth more and more as I mature. Even the advantage of age and influence has its limits and you must learn to meet them where they are.
Are you a mentor? What additional gems would you share with an aspiring mentor? Drop your thoughts below!