Mentoring is the development of a collaborative relationship for discovery, learning, and growth in a specific situation. Relationships develop through regular contact over a period of time and so mentoring requires a commitment to regularity and longevity. Private sector mentoring is a valuable strategy for promoting positive youth development. By developing quality connections with youth, private sector actors can use their relationship skills, experience, and technical knowledge to support youth in gaining life and career skills, contributing to the community, and launching successful microenterprises. As youth mentors, private sector actors ensure that youth have support to realize their civic, leadership, and business roles in their community today and in the future.
It’s not, however, a one-way street. Youth have strengths, life experience, and dreams that make them compelling development partners, and the best mentor programs focus on youth-adult partnerships—both mentees and mentors benefit from a mentoring relationship.
Traditionally, mentoring programs have been designed for one-on-one interaction. As the numbers of youth served rise, the ability to recruit enough mentors to fill the need may not be realistic or sustainable. Mentoring innovations are emerging, including assigning mentors to small groups, peer mentoring, and e-mentoring.
Whether youth are planning and implementing community projects, participating in an internship, starting a microenterprise or small business, or looking for a job, there are multiple points where support is needed to help youth succeed. Mentor program examples include:
Identifying and selecting mentors is similar to hiring someone to work with you—you want to find mentors who are the best fit for your program. Identify potential mentors through a labor market assessment or a community assessment. Develop a one-page fact sheet that realistically describes the purpose of the mentoring, experience/skills you are looking for, benefits, and expectations so applicants understand mentoring and what they can expect from a mentoring relationship. Inviting youth mentees to identify mentors for their business or community project can be an exciting way to leverage youth collaboration in your project. Youth will require specific orientation about the criteria for choosing mentors and how to approach the mentor to make the request.
Meet mentors face to face to assess alignment of expectations about the mentor role, opportunities, challenges, time commitment involved, and the mentor’s hopes. For mentor-mentee relationships to develop, mentors must be able to commit to meet in person with their mentee at least once a week. Clarify that phone calls and e-mail do not count as meetings. If possible, conduct a background check appropriate in your community—that is, run criminal checks, and ask for references from supervisors or references from your program’s stakeholder group.
Before they meet mentees, conduct an interactive training program to prepare mentors for their role, help them define their personal goals, and further assess if they are the right fit for your program. Research shows that when mentors’ goals and expectations are met in a mentoring program they are more likely to remain engaged. See the Mentoring Resources page for training ideas and topics. Balancing the private sector’s time constraints with this training is important to ensuring participation of mentors.
A specific staff member should be designated as the mentor’s contact person to share progress and assist with issues. Mentors are busy people so keep contact light, to the point, and enjoyable (so they want to be involved). Plan staff contact via phone with mentors every two weeks at the beginning of a program and then on a monthly basis. Providing brief written resources or e-mail updates with tips can also support mentors along the way. Develop specific and non-burdensome tools such as a three to five-question monthly report to collect information from mentees and mentors about the number of meetings that have taken place and other data you need to assess the strengths and needs of the program.
Mentors give their time and energy because they want to. Plan many ways for the program and the youth themselves to appreciate mentors at every opportunity—thank them publicly, send cards midway and at the end of a cycle of service, provide certificates and publish their names and the names of their businesses in the newspaper. When the period of service of mentorship has concluded plan a celebratory closing with the mentees, mentors, business leaders, and other stakeholders from the community including parents.
Free mentoring tools and downloads from the Search Institute, including guides for mentors and links to other mentoring sites.
Mentoring stories and resources from Emergence International, Inc., an organization specializing in building leaders around the world.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Cross-sectoral Youth Program Mentoring Guide
A mentoring guide developed by Family Health International (FHI) and AZMJ to guide mentors, mentees, and program coordinators who took part in the DRC Cross-sectoral Youth Program, an effort that sought to provide livelihood and life skills training and guidance to youth in the Bukavu region.
Profiles of several different IYF mentoring programs around the world, benefits and lessons learned from them, and questions to consider in building a mentorship program.
A useful how-to document for starting an e-mentoring program, based on an e-mentoring pilot program between Nokia employees and aboriginal youth in Canada implemented by IYF.
A guide from the Industry-Education Council of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, for practitioners working to engage professionals and community members in career mentoring.
The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR)’s checklist for the essential elements of a quality mentoring program.
An evidence-based guide detailing program design, implementation, and evaluation for a high-quality mentoring program authored by The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR).
A series of case studies from Youth Business International on the importance of training and mentorship for young entrepreneurs.
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