Most mentoring program coordinators have more mentor matches to support than is optimal, which means the level of support they can offer sometimes may be less than optimal as well. You might also get a coordinator who is neither skilled enough to handle the job nor motivated enough to ask for help and learn how. If that is the case, we urge you to let your program coordinator know that you are not getting what you think you need.
Good training to help you become a strong mentor is available, and both the scope and the quality of training are on the rise. If training is not presented to you through a formal mentoring program, find it elsewhere, and make use of it. Both you and your mentee will be beneficiaries. Fortunately, most mentoring programs offer strong training, especially those that are guided by MENTOR’s Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, third edition (2009). The Elements recommends that mentors participate in a minimum of two hours of pre-match, in-person training grounded in evidence-based methods and materials; and it urges mentoring programs to offer additional training (either in person or online) to all active mentors.[faq category=81 template=accordion]
Most formal mentoring programs have a volunteer or paid staff person who will be a mentor’s principal connection to the mentoring program. While the program coordinator in your program may carry a different title, he or she is the key player on mentoring’s front line Typically, a program coordinator handles most of the best practices outlined in Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. Once you begin mentoring, ongoing support will be the one that matters most. Whether mentors take advantage of the available support, most agree that it is vital to know they have someone to turn to if they can’t get their relationship off the ground, could use a sounding board, need a referral for a service they think their mentee needs, want help in resolving a specific issue, or just need to double-check that their mentoring relationship is on the right track.
Online also is available directly through some mentoring programs (especially e-mentoring programs like iMentor.org) and through Innovation Research & Training (IRT). IRT’s training, called Mentoring Central, is an especially strong resource for those who are either thinking about becoming a mentor or just starting a new mentoring relationship. This Web-based interactive training is based on Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, third edition, has benefited from rigorous testing designed to explore its usefulness, and is likely to grow even better over the next few years as new topic areas are added. You can find out more about Mentoring Central by visiting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basic mentor training should include: an overview of program rules and mentor obligations; mentors’ goals and expectations for the mentoring relationship; appropriate mentor roles; how best to develop and maintain a relationship with a mentee; ethical issues that may arise; how to effectively close the mentoring relationship when its agreed upon course has been completed, and sources of ongoing assistance to support mentors, including the name and contact information for the program coordinator.