Realistic expectations for new mentors

Mentoring can be intimidating if you set your expectations too high. This article explores what should you expect from your meetings and the relationship.

Have you ever expected one thing and experienced something completely different? In the movie Pretty in Pink, Andy expects her family to celebrate her 16th birthday in grand style. She is incredibly hurt and disappointed when she realizes that her milestone birthday was completely forgotten. We are all subject to hurt feelings and disappointment if we have unrealistic expectations. This is no different in mentoring. It is important to understand what you can anticipate and what you shouldn’t expect. Michigan State University Extension believes realistic expectations lead to a more satisfying and longer lasting mentoring relationship. What should you expect?

It may take time for your mentee to open up. This is healthy. When your mentee feels safe and trusts you, he will slowly share more.

  • You don’t have to actively work on an issue to have a great impact. Young people benefit in a variety of ways when they have a trusting relationship with an adult. Your time matters, whether you are playing a sport or working on homework.
  • Change takes time. Your mentee will not suddenly become a straight-A student or change problem behavior overnight. Your goal should be to develop a strong relationship with your mentee rather than to change your mentee. Plan to plant seeds knowing that you may not be there to see them grow. 
  • You might question whether you are making a difference. Trust that you are. To illustrate, think of an important person in your life. Was every interaction with this person powerful? Probably not. Over time the little moments combine to form a strong connection.
  • You are probably going to have a lot of fun with your new mentee. Most mentors get far more out of the experience than they expect and learn a lot from their new friend.
  • You are not in this alone! Quality mentoring programs will provide you with support through case workers/match specialists, training and additional resources. Ask questions and attend events to connect with staff and other mentors.

According to the Search Institute it is important for youth to have two or more non-parental adult role models. As a mentor, you fill this important need for a young person and will gain a friend and valuable experience yourself. If you aren’t a mentor yet, go to MENTOR to find a program in your area.

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