Mentoring: Get to know your mentee

Once you become a mentor, it may be difficult to know where to start in the relationship-building process. Explore some tips for choosing activities and a mindset that encourage conversation and openness.

Mentors often feel nervous and excited when they schedule their first meeting with their mentee. Will she like me? What will he want to do? Chances are your mentee will like you and you will have a great time together. The key to developing a strong relationship is to get to know each other, and to plan your time together to reflect common interests. The first few visits can set the foundation for your relationship.

Here are some tips for those first interactions:

  • Recognize your role.
    As the mentor, you should be willing to lead the conversation until your mentee feels comfortable doing so. Be prepared with a few questions or conversation topics based on what you already know. Stick to safe topics: interests, hobbies, favorite foods, pets, etc.
  • Be prepared to share.
    Bring a few pictures or something that is important to you. By sharing a bit about yourself, you open the door for your mentee to talk about her interests and background. Invite her to bring something to share on the next visit.
  • Choose activities wisely.
    Sharing an experience is a great way to get your mentee to start talking. Just be sure to choose activities that provide an opportunity for conversation. Building something, arts and crafts, hiking or going out to eat are some examples of activities that provide a focus while leaving room for discussion.
  • Attend a group activity.
    Many mentoring programs offer group activities. These activities give you a chance to interact with others while working or playing together. Many activities are designed for team building or to strengthen the mentoring relationship.
  • Be a team.
    Enlist your mentee’s help to plan activities. Youth are used to adults serving as an authority and telling them what to do. It may take a little prodding to get your mentee to make decisions about your outings, but doing so shows him that you are a team and have equal say.
  • Build trust.
    All relationships require trust and this relationship is no different. One of the easiest ways to build trust is to be consistent and do what you say you are going to do.
  • Have fun!
    Mentoring should be enjoyable for both parties. Try not to get so caught up in planning and details that you forget to have fun.

Mentoring relationships are unique in many ways, but like all relationships, they require time and attention to thrive. Consider these tips and follow your own instincts as you set the foundation for a long-lasting mentoring relationship. If you would like more information, the Youth Mentoring Network has created a factsheet that provides additional ideas for getting to know your mentee.

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