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Mentor Program Tips

Peer Resources also provides tips, strategies, and support for the creation of successful mentor programs. Each month new information culled from the Peer Resources Network discussion list is added to this section.

Enquiries to Peer Resources come from sources as diverse as hospitals, schools, factories, financial institutions, youth agencies, entertainment organizations, sports clubs, corporations, universities and small business entrepreneurs. More and more people are considering the ways in which mentoring can help them achieve a variety of personal, spiritual, business, and professional goals.

While settings and target groups may be different, a few principles tie virtually all successful mentor programs together. Here are the top six:

  • Literally hundreds of decisions can be made in designing a mentoring program. There is no one right way. The key is to design the program so that it fits the culture of the organization or setting in which it will operate. Mentoring experts call this: cultural fit.

  • Closely related to cultural fit is clarity of goals. What is the purpose of the mentoring? What will it achieve or accomplish? What results ought to occur if a mentoring program is successful? Once the goals are identified it is much easier to make decisions regarding various program elements and it is possible to use the goals as a way of determining whether the program detail is on track or off track.

  • Connecting mentors with the person(s) being mentored is a crucial element of any program. In general, however, the key to a successful match is NOT the degree of similarity between the mentor and the partner. The key is the mentor's ability to tune in to, understand and accept what the partner is experiencing. This kind of ability to communicate can be enhanced with training. Therefore, training mentors is typically more important than finding mentors with similar characteristics.

  • The success of the mentoring match is dependent on MONITORING that relationship that develops between the partners. In other words, it is not helpful to just match people up, and let whatever happens happen. Therefore, someone has to take responsibility to check regularly with each partner to determine how it is going, what each one is getting and not getting from the connection.

  • In addition to training and monitoring, it is essential to do a needs assessment with those persons who have been through recovery/growth/career advancement (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to determine their perspectives on what they needed from others that helped (or hindered) their recovery/growth/career advancement. This assessment typically forms the basis of the CONTENT of the training sessions for mentors and may also give clues as to whether any training might be necessary to prepare the new partners for mentoring.

  • The sixth program tip is that the persons who volunteer as mentors must be assured in action (not just in words) that they will be getting something valuable out of being a mentor; that their time will be well-spent, that they will grow or learn, etc. Mentors need to experience value, what we call MUTUALITY, when they interact with their partners. It cannot be a one way relationship where the mentor does all the giving.

  • These orientation tips let you know that there are some generic aspects to mentoring. You may be able to apply these ideas right away or at least determine how well they might apply to your client population since you are more familiar with their characteristics, setting, and circumstances.

  • This is also an example of what we provide in our training manual, The Mentor Program Development Resource Kit, as well as the kind of consultation we provide to members of the Peer Resources Network. A membership fee, however, is required.

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