Mentoring can be particularly valuable for youth who do not have a caring adult in their life besides their parents. An ongoing relationship with a caring adult is a positive indicator for youth development.).
Mentoring relationships provide valuable support to young people; help guide youth through the sometimes awkward developmental stages that accompany the transition into adulthood. Great mentors listen carefully without taking on the other person's problem or giving advice, enabling the protégé to articulate the problem and sort our solutions. They also provide feedback and confirmation.
Mentors can offer academic and career guidance, and be role models for leadership, interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Adult-youth mentor relationships aid in the youth's relationships with other non-parent adults, which can powerfully influence the course and quality of adolescents' lives. A mentor's most important function is to help the protégé grow and think.
Recent research shows that youth who had mentors in their lives were less likely to skip school, more confident in their school performance and more engaged in school, although most studies have not found a significant improvement in grades from mentoring. The study also showed a slight improvement in the relationship of youth with their parents, and a decreased likelihood to use drugs and alcohol - both of which can affect academic performance. Research has shown that mentoring programs are much more effective when properly implemented using established best practices and when particular attention is paid to relationship development.
As a career-focused mentor, you can provide a glimpse of the world of work that may not otherwise be available to them. The US Department of Labor offers a guide to career-focused mentoring.
Do you act as a mentor to youth in your programs? If so do you have a frank discussion with your proteges about career choices? Do you lead them to professionals in that career or resources in their area of interest?