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Mentorship is for everyone.

This month, we’ve been discussing the importance of mentorship for Youth Success. A healthy relationship with an adult can provide stability and emotional safety for kids that need it. When we invest time and energy in our youth community, we invest in their futures as contributing members of society. Last week, our staff shared their reflections on our time working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga as mentors in their Beyond School Walls program. 

Though organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters make a huge impact on our youth community, mentorship is not limited to supervised programs. Everyone has the opportunity to mentor and be mentored, and everyone has something to learn from their mentor and mentee. Whether in your education, your career or in organized mentorship programs, we have compiled a list of important tips for both being a mentor and a mentee.

Tips for being a mentor:

  1. Always engage in active listening. When your mentee asks questions or wants to discuss something, make sure you show you are paying full attention by repeating their main points, clarifying questions and asking followup questions. 
  2. Share stories about your own experiences instead of going straight to giving advice. Your mentee will value hearing how you have learned from similar experiences or overcome similar obstacles. 
  3. Use empathy. Repeatedly imagine yourself in your mentee’s shoes and remember how you felt when you were younger. Demonstrate empathy by validating their feelings and sharing your experiences.
  4. Give your opinions when asked, but don’t overstep. You are a mentor because your opinions and perspective are highly valued, but wait to be asked to share so that your mentee can develop their own.
  5. Offer a balance of encouragement and constructive criticism. Both are critical for the success of your mentee, but too much of one or the other could hinder their growth or create insecurity.

Tips for finding a mentor and being a mentee:

  1. Approach a trusted adult and ask if they would be willing to mentor you in a certain role. If you are a student, maybe this adult is a teacher or professor in your favorite subject or your major. If you are a professional, maybe this adult is your direct boss, or maybe it is someone in a role or position you would like to hold someday, or someone who achieved a goal you admire and want to emulate. 
  2. Consistently ask questions – about career decisions, learning opportunities, and life in general. Your mentor is a wealth of knowledge and an amazing resource at your disposal, so make sure you take advantage of their expertise. 
  3. Emulate the characteristics and habits of your mentor that you admire. Whether it’s their professionalism in meetings, scheduling practices or work-life balance, modeling yourself after someone you respect is a good idea, regardless of the differences in your positions and goals.
  4. Learn your mentor’s story. Ask how they got to where they are, what they learned along the way, what obstacles they faced and what career and education decisions they’ve made. This will help you to prepare for and understand your own path to success. 
  5. Share your own thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes about your position and your goals. Your mentor will likely be able to both empathize, encourage and hold you accountable. 

A mentor-mentee relationship can change a life. 

Not only can a mentor help you grow in your educational or career path, they can provide a safe space for you to process your thoughts and feelings outside of your family, friends and coworkers. Likewise, there is always a great deal for mentors to learn from their mentees – sharing life with someone younger can provide a great deal of perspective. Having someone with more life experience to guide you is invaluable, both professionally and personally. When we connect with one another and live alongside our neighbors in this way, we build a stronger, healthier community. 

What we do together today determines how we LIVE UNITED tomorrow.