The Importance of Mentorship
Mentorship is important because mentors are often transformative for their mentees. Mentors are often the catalysts for positive growth and can affect change in ways that others cannot. Research from various scholars indicates that mentoring is connected with a wide range of positive outcomes for mentees. Mentoring has been discussed as a strategy for positive development and as a tool to defuse negative behavior (DuBois & Karcher, 2005). Regarding youth, mentoring can be used as a way to improve academics, school readiness and retention, and success of college students (Johnson, in press). Finally, mentoring is also used as a means to facilitate career development among employees (Kram, 1985).
If I were asked “what is mentoring?” I would define it as “a relationship between two people; one per being more experienced (the mentor) assists and guides the person with less experience (the mentee) in the development of specific skills and knowledge that will enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth. I mentioned the word “specific” because there should be a detailed goal(s) in mind. The ultimate task for the mentor is to help develop the mentee in accomplishing the goal(s) and for the mentee to work effectively and efficiently to complete and implement the goal(s).
Mentors guide in all areas of life. In fact, there should be consistent growth professionally, personally, spiritually, and even financially. Having at least one mentor in every area can cause a major breakthrough, in areas that the mentee is struggling in, growth spurt, and tremendous outcomes.
Without a doubt, in order for mentorship to be successful and effective, between the mentor and the mentee, a strong-bonded relationship must be maximized and built upon. Both parties should understand their role.
Understand the mentee’s vision and goal: Mentors should really listen for what the mentee is asking. They should “dig deep” in search for the ultimate vision for their lives.
Strategic plan: Includes believing in their goal, creating a plan that is conducive to the mentee, and hold the mentee accountable.
Take action: Mentors put themselves at risk by providing their resources and connections. A mentor that believes in their mentee’s vision will put their name on the line.
Have a basic understanding of critical consciousness race theory and culturally relevant pedagogy. It is vital for the mentor to meet the mentee where they are and to try to understand the various identity markers of their mentee(s).
Seek and identify the mentor that is a great fit.
Stay focused: Stick with the plan that both parties agreed on.
Trust the mentor: Believe in the plan that will help with the implementation of the vision.
Advocate for themselves and speak their truth.
While mentoring, focuses mainly on strategy with the mentee. Answer these questions: What is the goal? How will it be accomplished? What resources are needed to accomplish them?
A recommended strategic exercise is for the mentee to “touch” the goal daily. If the goal is to write a book, the mentee should take action towards that goal everyday (e.g. write for ten minutes everyday, research a publishing company one day, name one chapter everyday during the week, etc.). Together, figure out the best strategy to implement the goal(s) and ultimately the vision.
Ultimately, mentors help to guide mentees and help to get them out of their comfort zone. Successful mentorship shows that the mentee is strong and smart enough to receive assistance to help grow professionally and personally.
Can one fail as a mentor? Yes; similarly a mentee can “fail” in the “mentee seat” as well. Sometimes, the relationship is just not a “right fit.” But, if the relationship between the two is solid, there is a strong indication that the relationship will be maximized and professional and personal growth will be implemented.
DuBois D, Karcher M. (2005). Handbook of youth mentoring. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Johnson, W. (in press). Student-faculty mentorship outcomes. In: Allen TD, Eby LT, editors. Blackwell handbook of mentoring. Oxford: Blackwell;
Kram, K. (1985). Mentoring at work. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.
Dr. Karen Ratliff is the founder of The College Bootcamp. The College Bootcamp is an organization that prepares students for college and guides them through their college experience. The College Bootcamp offers tips, tools, resources, tutoring, coaching, and scholarships to college students. The organization also provides a free downloadable mobile app. Dr. Ratliff is also the author of “College Secrets Exposed” and has been a featured blogger for Jet and Ebony. She has appeared on WGN with Micah Materre and other media outlets.
You can download The College Bootcamp app or visit the website for more information www.thecollegebootcamp.com