Is there a class for this? If so, I’d like to take it. As a mentor, I try to make a positive change for my community. However, there are days when I feel like I’m completely wasting my time. I ask myself:
WTF am I doing?
How is this helping?
Am I making things worse?
You can’t control what others do but at the same time–when they mess up, it does effect you. Even when it’s hard to see the results, know that you are changing their lives for the better.
In my year in being a mentor for ‘at risk’ youth, I’ve come up with the following rules that work for me.
Don’t take it personal…
Hardest rule to follow, because it all seems personal. Whether they’re late when you go to pick them up, or if they do something you’ve strongly advised against, it’s hard not to take it personal. However, they’re not perfect–they’re going to mess things up. More often than not, it won’t have anything to do with you.
…But if you do, let them know about it.
If you do take something they’ve done personally, from my experience, the best thing you can do is let them know what they did and how it effected you. Some of the deepest conversations I’ve had with my mentee have come as a result of this. This can be powerful stuff if you know when to pick your battles.
Oh and that comfort zone you try to stay in…avoid it like the plague.
Usually if you’re a mentor, you’re spending time with a young man/woman who’s looking for a different route in life. You’re going to attempt to alter fundamental aspects of their lives. You’re going to ask them to do something different. If you’re not willing to do the same, they’re going to shut down on you. They want to see a change in you, as well.
Never ‘should all over them’.
Eradicate the word should when talking to a mentee. They don’t want to hear it. Period. For the most part, the only person they want to be compared with, is the person they used to be.
Be there and stand up for them…
This is all they really want in a mentor. How awesome is it to have someone in your corner that has your back no matter what? That’s huge. Just knowing they can count on an adult to guide them through the rough patches in life is a powerful thing. Hell, I wish I had that from time to time.
…But hold them accountable.
It’s tough. You’re not a parent (or maybe you are), you’re a mentor. It’s not your job to discipline your mentee. But at the same time you do have to teach them that what they do has consequences. This is a very thin line to walk, but you have to find a way to do it. When they do something wrong, often the best thing to do is bring up a similar mistake you’ve made that hurt yourself or others you cared about. They’re pretty good at reading between the lines and relating with your mistakes.
Your job is not to be cool; your job is simply to be there. A mentor that tries to be someone they’re not isn’t effective. They want to see you for who you are–flaws and all. Flaws are something they can relate to. There’s not a human being on this earth that can relate to perfection because nobody is perfect. This is the most important rule to follow as a mentor: Be 100 percent real–Be yourself!