Thinking of becoming mentor? Here’s what you need to know

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Remember when you were just starting out in Manitoba? Did someone advise you about what to do in your first days here? Did a friend tell you where to go for your SIN or health card or help you look for a job? Did someone teach you how to dress for winter? Whether it was a family member, a friend or staff from an immigrant-serving organization, they served as your mentors when you were starting out.

Now that you are established in your work and more or less settled, you may be thinking of giving back. How about becoming a mentor yourself?

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person who trains and guides another person, usually someone younger or less experienced. Mentors pass on knowledge, skills, attitudes and habits to their mentees to help them reach their goals and succeed. Mentorship is a significant, life-changing task that provides perspective, guidance and encouragement to another person who grows and prospers because of it.

There are three types of mentors:

  1. Sponsor – Someone who puts their personal reputation on the line and takes responsibility for their mentee’s personal success. A sponsor is usually someone senior and influential. They don’t really guide and provide advice but they can open up opportunities for others.
  2. Guide – A mentor who is 15-20 years ahead of their mentee in the path that they are taking or the career that they wish to pursue. They ask the question, “What’s your next step?” They help mentees trust their own decisions.
  3. Coach – A coach focuses on performance improvement. They listen to their mentees and helps them set clear goals. They also ask good questions to help them assess their situation clearly.

Some mentors can be a combination of these types. They can also be related to their mentees for example, a parent, older sibling or extended family. Other possible mentors are people at work, school or church like teachers, tutors, professional coaches or counsellors/advisors. Regardless of ties, the most memorable mentors are those who are so genuinely invested in their mentees’ growth that they form a close personal relationship with them.

What do you need to be a mentor?

Everyone has experience to share that can help others who are taking the same path. Whether for their career, academics, sports or general life matters, you can contribute knowledge that can help someone grow and succeed. As long as you are willing to share your knowledge and time, you can be a mentor.

Moreover, a good mentor:

  • has a sincere desire to help
  • has great listening skills
  • has empathy and respect for mentees
  • is a problem- solver
  • is flexible.

You should keep in mind that being a mentor is a commitment. Before taking on the responsibility, you need to consider the following:

  • Who do I want to mentor?
  • What activities do I want to be involved in?
  • What resources do I have?
  • What mentoring location do I prefer? (in your office, at school, in your home, online?)

Having these in mind will help you decide where to volunteer and determine the kind of support you can provide.

Why become a mentor?

Mentorships often focus on the benefits mentees get out of the partnership. But it is often a two-way street. Aside from feeling good about yourself and helping others, as a mentor you will also:

  • learn leadership skills
  • improve your communication skills
  • practice empathy and grow your EQ (emotional quotient/intelligence)
  • widen your personal and professional network
  • update your knowledge about your field
  • gain new perspectives and ideas
  • contribute to the growth and professionalization of your field.

Opportunities for mentorship

Ready to start mentoring? It can be informal or formal. Informal mentorship is when you don’t have to follow set requirements like minimum hours or meet qualifications (for example, a degree or certification) and you can start right away. For example, you can train a subordinate at work or help your nephew do his math homework during your free time.

Formal mentorship may require you to apply to an organization, meet certain standards, and commit to set schedules. Volunteering as a youth counsellor, leading a youth group at church, or mentoring in your professional organization are examples of formal mentorship.

You can check out formal mentoring opportunities from:

  1. Your place of work or in your community/church
  2. Settlement organizations:
  3. Your professional association (for example Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, Chartered Professional Accountants – CPA Mentorship Program)

Article updated October 19, 2021.
Sources: 7 qualities that make a good mentor (and how to find someone who has them all), Alyse Kalish, the muse; The basics of mentorship, Business Journal; Mentoring basics – A mentor’s guide for success,; Mentorship 101: 3 types of mentors and 5 conversations with mentors, Conor Neill, YouTube video; Accessed August 23, 2019.

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