Before you start
How to get into a mentoring relationship
The simple way is to assign mentors to mentorees, and this can work for very skill-based mentoring. In some staff placement situations, you might have no choice:
"Jon is the only one here who's really good at what you need to learn. He's a nice guy and you'll get on well with him. How about working with him regularly so she can teach you how to do it?"
However, if the relationship might be more personal, you will really need to check with both prospective mentoree and mentor that they are positive about the pairing. Compatibility is basic to success; it's even better if they naturally "click" and make friends.
In any case, you need some way that they can bail out if the relationship doesn't work out.
If you are helping mentors match up with mentorees, you should make sure they will be able to work together. There's nothing wrong with being totally different, and being very similar doesn't necessarily ensure success. Opposites sometimes attract.
Here's a list of factors affecting compatibility. It's not a checklist. It. more like a list of things that can make people incompatible with someone:
- temperament and personality
- interpersonal approach
- cultural background
- educational level
- ethnicity and/or language
- family responsibilities
- learning/thinking styles
- marital status
- physical ability
- political orientation
- religious belief
- socio-economic background
- work and life experience
- working styles
What do you expect?
You may be coaching people through difficult personal decisions as a friend or a confidante.
First, are you the right person for them?
In a more personal case, mentorees needs a trusted friend whom they respect to be a mentor, and you won't be able to depend on any formal position to establish trust.
Unless you're is a position of pastoral carer, and people deliberately go to you for help, the informal friendship part of the relationship might be more important. In many cases, the relationship is spontaneous, and not completely planned.
In other cases, you may have to coach people whose personalities are not the perfect fit for you, but you should be wary of accepting a one-on-one relationship that clearly won't work. Besides, you should meet in an open, visible location if the student is the opposite gender.
Second, identify the needs and goals.
It may take a while to find out exactly what your mentoree wants to learn or why they really came to you in the first place./p>
If the mentoree is ready, you may want to discuss some goals. Give the mentoree freedom to explore his/her ideas and feelings, even if they are not quite right at first. For the mentoree, finding out exactly what they need to aim for is a major achievement in itself.)
It might be a very good idea to write them out very clearly. This is not as easy as it sounds, and it will probably take several drafts and you discuss your thoughts and feeling more fully. Even then they might not be perfectly clear, and there's nothing wrong with adjusting them later on.
Identify your student's learning style.
It will help if you can identify your student's learning style early. It can make the difference between success and failure for some students. For example, some people will learn more by reading, but others won't. Some people need active involvement in doing something. Others live interaction with other people.
The idea of "learning style" means that students learn in very different ways. Learning styles are not related to intelligence; the styles are found in people of all intelligence levels.
Here are some of the most important:
- Visual learners want to see something, especially a diagram or picture. If asked to explain something, their natural first choice is to draw a diagram.
- Audio learners like sound. They find a verbal explanation very helpful, and will prefer to explain something orally.
- Theoretical learners like to think it through and make sure they understand it before they feel ready to do anything. Logical consistency is very important.
- Activist learners like to do it straight away and see what happens. They get frustrated if asked to carefully think something through before trying to do it.
- Reflective learners want to mull it over before taking action.
- Relaters feel that relating to people is most important. They look at relationships and want to learn from other people. They are very interested in how people tick but aren’t very interested in abstract ideas.
- Kinaesthetic learners are good at physical activities such as sport and dance. They naturally want to touch the object that they are learning about.