Tips for Being a Mentor

Because January is National Mentoring Month, we wanted to highlight the benefits for mentors and mentees! The YMCA of Central Florida has provided mentorship through our School programs like Teen Achievers and Links 2 Learning, and the benefits are clear: mentorship not only helps future generations be more prepared and empowered, but it can also help the mentor continue to build on their own skills like interpersonal communication and networking.

Growing up, you most likely looked to parents, siblings, and even teachers for guidance. They taught you how to go from crawling to walking to running, how to read and write and speak, and maybe even helped you discover your favorite hobby or develop a skill. As we mature, though, our role models tend to turn into people that live and work in our area(s) of professional interest. This is where mentors come in! Mentors guide you to help you reach your educational and/or career goals, and also offer support from firsthand experience. If you're inspired by a mentor you had once or just interested in assisting future generations, consider becoming a mentor and check out three ways that you can be great at it!

Lead by Example

Before any professional assistance comes into play, remember that your mentee will see how you interact on a personal level. They’ll pick up on things like your values and ethics, how you interact with other professionals in your network, and your methods on how you accomplish tasks. Be sure you’re aware of your own behavior, and showing patience as they learn! Also, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes you’ve made in the past. This honesty will show them that it’s human nature to mess up once in a while, but as long as you take responsibility, it can be an opportunity for growth.

Set Thorough Expectations

While the idea of mentorship is understood, every single actual mentor/mentee relationship will vary to some degree based on a variety of factors. It’s important to set expectations in the beginning to ensure the dynamic will be a positive experience for both of you. Some other factors to communicate from the start include:

  • Management style. The type of leader you are will have a great influence on how exactly you mentor, and how you want to work together with the mentee.
  • Communication process. How will you communicate? Consider things like would you prefer for them to communicate through email or would you rather them call between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm.
  • Measuring success. Establish how you’ll tell if they’ve been successful with a specific activity or task you’ve presented them with.

Give Back More than You Receive

Teens and young adults, especially ones with less experience, are more than likely going to feel overwhelmed as they start to break into the professional world. Be sure you’re always there to congratulate their successes! What may seem like a minor achievement to you can be a huge victory for them. Another way to support them is by offering as much helpful advice as possible. Keep in mind if your mentee hasn’t been in the professional world for very long, they might not even have an idea of what types of questions to ask.

Mentoring can be a wonderfully rewarding experience for both the mentor and the person they’re helping. No matter how long the mentorship takes place—whether it’s one semester of school or for someone’s first year on the job—the impact on both the mentor and the mentee will last a lifetime! Find out how you can learn more about mentoring opportunities at