What's mentoring all about?
A mentor for young people isn't a counsellor, a teacher or an advisor. A mentor is an adult role model who offers a young person time and space to talk about issues affecting their lives.
A mentor doesn't 'fix' a young person's problems: they give the young person the opportunity, the skills and confidence to choose a positive way forward for themselves.
A mentor might offer ideas, contacts and prompts. He or she might encourage the young person to think about their skills and attributes, to take strength from challenges they've already faced, and to set their sights as high as their potential.
He or she will probably model good ways of communicating with people, of coping with frustration, and identifying life opportunities. Together the mentor and young person might try new activities and develop group relationships too.
But often the greatest impact they will have is simply by being there listening - reliably, consistently, and without judgement. Our young people know that their mentors are volunteers, and they participate voluntarily too. It's a great foundation for a trusting relationship with no agenda except helping the young person to feel better and to re-connect with family, school or community.
What qualities do mentors need?
We don’t ask for the mentors to be perfect, just kind, honest and reliable. The impact of such a relationship can be powerful, life changing and extremely positive.
We look for the following qualities in our mentors:
- The ability to listen to and support young people
- An interest in the welfare of young people
- An understanding of young people, ideally gained through personal or professional contact
- The capacity to work individually with a young person
- A commitment to working in a way which does not discriminate against any group in society
- Personal attributes such as tolerance, persistence, sensitivity and warmth.
Many of our children and young people have experienced rejection and difficult relationships. A reliable mentor is a must, so we encourage mentors to meet their young person regularly (about once a week), routinely (ideally the same time each week) and consistently over about a year. There's obviously flexibility, according to each pair's needs.
What they mentor and mentee do is up to them: join in activities organised by Mentoring Plus, do their own thing, pursue specific interests, take a trip somewhere or just have a coffee and a chat.
Volunteer mentors need to be able to commit to:
- 2 day mentor training and possibly additional training sessions
- A Contact Day where you get a chance to meet the young people
- Regular, reliable contact with the young people with whom they are matched (outside school hours)
- Regular updates to Mentoring Plus and supervision with professional staff.
Travel expenses are reimbursed and each young person has a monthly activity allowance. Please download the Volunteer Expenses form, complete, sign and send to us for payment.
What do mentors get out of it?
Many volunteers come to us with long experience of working with children and young people, wanting to develop these skills and see their impact in different ways.
One ex-teacher said: "I'm confident communicating with teenagers, but I had so many students and never felt I had enough time to help them in the ways I'd have liked to. Mentoring gives me the opportunity to get to know someone better and work one to one."
Others want to develop their careers and seek the opportunity to build experience. A social work mature student said: "I'd been doing voluntary work before my studies anyway, but I wanted to use the knowledge I was gaining to do something more relevant to my future. The training Mentoring Plus offers is practical and valuable, and the mentor support helps you to work through any difficulties as they arise."
Mentoring experience has application in the wider workplace too. A sales professional found being a mentor made her a better listener and more strategic problem-solver. "It's also good for me to be in a situation where I'm influencing, but not 'in charge'. I have to find ways to gently challenge a pattern of thinking without being controlling. I think it's influencing my style at work for the better too."
There's also the basic satisfaction of seeing what a direct and positive impact you can have on another person. One mentor talks about seeing the long-term signs of change. "It's not an overnight process when you're mentoring a teenager, but I've seen for myself that over time, they've felt better about themselves and that's fed through to their whole lives. It's like planting seeds and eventually seeing the harvest."
A mentor’s perspective
What is mentoring really like? Read about the experience of Julianne, one of our mentors, in our latest annual report (starting on page 4).
How do I apply to become a volunteer mentor?
If you would like to apply to be a mentor please download and complete the Mentor Application form and Equal Opportunities form and return them to us. If appropriate we will then be in touch to invite you in for an informal chat.
Please call us on 01225 429694 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
We look forward to hearing from you!