5 Key Qualities of Great Mentors

Welcome to Mentoring Toolbox, a new blog series about the nuts and bolts of mentoring! The Toolbox will provide useful information for current and prospective mentors, everything from what it's like to volunteer for iMentor to how to support your mentee in transitioning from high school to a college or career path.

At iMentor, we build long-term relationships that that empower first-generation college students to achieve their full potential.

Every day, we see mentors and mentees working closely together to nurture college aspirations, navigate the post-secondary process, and build critical non-cognitive skills that lead to success in the professional world.

So how can mentors develop strong relationships with mentees? Here are five qualities that we see in great mentoring.

  1. Patience. Mentoring a young person is hard work. It can take months for your mentee to develop trust in you and trust in the mentoring experience. While change is absolutely possible, change still takes time. A great mentor understands it’s worth the wait. Success in having patience means not always being in control.
  2. Unconditional Support. When a mentee must make a decision, mentors offer advice and guidance. A great mentor understands the decision is ultimately the mentee’s and will be supportive no matter what decision the mentee makes. Success in offering unconditional support means your mentee feels more confident in their decisions.
  3. Honesty. When mentors are honest about their own mistakes and failures, they help mentees understand that even the most successful people make mistakes and learn from them. A great mentor is always honest with their mentee in order to help the mentee make good choices. This includes offering feedback on both negative and positive choices, actions and behaviors. Success in being honest looks like open reflection about past challenges, decisions, and pathways.
  4. Consistency. Mentees crave consistency in their lives. Great mentors are consistent whether or not the mentee has learned to be consistent yet. It’s this consistency that leads to mentees developing trust in their mentors. This means showing up to every event you have committed to and emailing every week, no matter what. Success in being consistent means keeping appointments, calling or texting when you say you will, and completing lessons every week, especially when your mentee does not. Model the behavior you want to see in your mentee over time.
  5. Fun. Being fun will motivate your mentee to get to know you. Fun and humor helps mentees be more open to the mentoring experience and can be a catalyst for closeness between the mentor and mentee. Be silly. Let your guard down. Use self-deprecating humor. Success in fun means not having to be the serious half all the time.

Learn about becoming a mentor. Read about how iMentor Chicago mentor Mollie Kozberg created a meaningful connection with her mentee, Brenda.