Do you have a mentor? Is there someone special—at work, home or school—who has made a difference in your life? Maybe they encouraged you in your career, or possibly guided you to make great decisions regarding your education or life path? If you’re able to point to someone who did these things for you, consider yourself lucky. Research says that in the United States, one of every three young people will grow up without a mentor.
As you conjure up your list of 2015 goals—and don’t stop now because the month is almost over—make sure you’ve outlined some that involve helping others. January marks National Mentor Month and is the perfect opportunity to learn more about this great service you can provide at work, at home or in your community.
What mentoring does. A lack of certain things at a young age or in a young career—such as nurturing, opportunity, support and guidance—can be detrimental. Young people without mentors may begin to see the world without hope, causing them to put their dreams and aspirations on the backburner or worse, never achieve their full potential. The work of mentors pays off, a recent study by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership shows mentors increase the likelihood of at-risk young adults to enroll and graduate from college, participate in sports, hold a leadership role and volunteer in their communities.
What you need. In order to become a mentor to someone less experienced in work, education or life, mentors must tap into various skills throughout a mentoring relationship, like empathy and great listening, problem solving abilities and flexibility. More than anything, it’s critical to have a passion for helping others. Mentors may need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a mentee, boost their ability to make decisions and problem solve, introduce new ideas, inspire and correct negative thinking.
How to get started. Each state in the United States has offices dedicated to support and encourage mentoring, especially during the month of January. Find yours at the National Mentoring Month website. Research shows that being matched through a quality mentoring program leads to greater mentor successes, but these relationships can happen in other ways, too. Aspiring mentors can reach out to their employers, religious affiliations or athletic involvements to determine if opportunities are available.
Other ways to help. If you’re not available to take on a mentee, but believe deeply in the benefits of mentorship, consider donating to a local or national mentoring organization. Your contribution will help make mentoring available to the people who can benefit most. However you help, you’ll feel great and reap the healthy benefits associated with volunteerism, like lower mortality rates and lower rates of depression later in life.
What if you need a mentor? Even people at the top of their games consult with mentors, so don’t rule one out at any stage of life. Take stock and write down changes you want to make in your life, then identify people you know, or know of, who might be able to help you along the way. Finally, invite your possible mentor out for coffee or lunch. Don’t overwhelm them by asking them outright to be your mentor, just start by sharing that you’d like to discuss the topic you have in common. Most people want to help, you just have to ask!