January is National Mentoring Month, and community centers, nonprofits, and schools across the country are using the occasion to report on the state of mentorship in education, launch new programs, and advocate for increased mentoring involvement. While the internet abounds with information on mentorships for adolescents or mentoring in business settings, professionals and teachers rarely trade notes or try to learn from each other. Since we at eMentorConnect focus on managing and growing professional mentorships, we thought we’d check in with our peers in the scholastic sector to see what they can teach us too!
1. When pairing mentors and mentees, look for similarities, even in spite of obvious differences. Florida non-profit PROPEL paired 17-year old Haitian immigrant Garsendy St. Fleur with 53-year old Richard Weissman, CEO of The Learning Experience, Forbes reports. While at first glance, these participants appear not to have much in common, they forged a mentorship, and eventually, a friendship. Weissman says, “Garsendy’s entrepreneurial mentality reminds me of myself as a teenager – hungry and ready to work hard.” On the EMC Blog we’ve discussed the importance of arranging mentorships that support diversity and span generations, races, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. Don’t shy away from pairing mentors and mentees due to perceived differences. Instead, encourage mentors to find familiarities in their mentees that they may not have anticipated, as Weissman did.
2. Don’t ignore potential mentees because they seem disengaged at work. Do you find yourself in awkward interactions with mid-level employees whom you solicited as mentees in the past? Maybe their interest waned or they completed one round with a mentor and didn’t sign up again? Don’t give up on them. Even exceptionally talented team members can become disengaged due to a number of professional and personal reasons. If they seem checked out, perhaps they’re feeling stuck in their position, unsure how to advance or unmotivated because they haven’t been challenged. Take a note from Baltimore City Councilperson Rikki Spector, and extend a hand. The Washington Post reports that after being violently beaten during a carjacking, she sought out her attackers, a 13 and 15-year-old, and with the support of non-profit UEMpower of Maryland, began a mentorship with each of them. Subsequently, the students improved their grades, made new friends, and abandoned the destructive behaviors that held them back. Spector may be an exceptional example of the power of forgiveness and understanding, but she knows that the right opportunity can boost self-esteem and turn someone’s life around, “I see how these boys are growing, how they’re treating each other. It’s transformational.”
3. Set aside time to say thanks! One of the initiatives in honor of National Mentoring Month for many organizations is providing the opportunity for mentors to be appreciated for their contributions. Rennie Brantz, mayor of Boone, North Carolina created Thank Your Mentor Day this year to recognize the 4,600 hours of time dedicated, valued at $101,844, donated by mentors to youth in the community. Brantz “promotes three ways to honor your mentor:
(1) contact your mentor directly to express your appreciation
(2) pass on what you received by becoming a mentor to a young person in your community
(3) write a tribute to your mentor”
We’d like to propose one additional step: a mentee thank you day as well. At eMentorConnect, we believe the mentoring relationship benefits both participants. Arrange an all-around appreciation day when mentors and mentees can exchange small gifts, nominate new coworkers for mentoring positions, or participate in games or a small office party.