7 Rules for Mentoring Students

by | Aug 20, 2019

     Mentoring students can be a great initiative for almost any business! It is a great way to revisit specific skills in your job, grow leadership abilities, and give back to not only students directly, but your community as well. Below are 7 ways to make your mentorship program a huge success for everyone! Keep in mind that every student and business is different and you’ll likely need to tweak these concepts so that they are as effective as possible for your unique situation.


Don’t take on a mentorship or internship that you know you can’t handle. 

     If you know you don’t have the time, energy, or interest, or if the student isn’t the right fit, pass on the opportunity. It is in the best interest of everyone that you have the ability to dedicate significant time and information to the student so that their program can be successful. This includes if you plan to have a staff member be the student’s direct mentor, if they don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to the student, it is best not to start.


Make time for the Student.

     Many programs that are run by schools require meetings 1+ times each month with the student and email exchanges to answer questions. I recommend going above and beyond the requirement and offering weekly meeting times. Let the student choose if they could fit that into their schedule – you must keep in mind that these kids are often taking on large workloads at school already. If you can offer them two different options each week for them to choose from, they will get much more out of the program for very little extra effort on your end.


Don’t do their work for them.

     Mentors sometimes feel inclined to help the student do their project or an assignment “right” to the point of doing it for them, and in some cases students might be hoping for this to happen. However, you must resist this temptation because if you are doing the work as the experienced professional, the student is not learning. The whole point of a mentorship is to learn and grow, and we do that by trying, failing, and not giving up. Be a guide, give examples, give strong feedback, but don’t do it for them.


Focus on the process.

     Help the student lay tracks for success by asking them questions about how they approach their work and their process. This way, you can give feedback to help them form processes for success. As an experienced professional, you know the outcomes of different processes and can help the student find a way that helps them reach their goals.


Give positive feedback.

     For most of these students, this might be their first foray into your industry, so make sure to encourage them when they get things right – moving towards their goals through learning is the ultimate mission of any mentorship or internship. And, for some students, this encouragement can be life changing. I like to utilize a praise-correct-praise method so that students get the feedback they need to grow alongside the encouragement they need to stay motivated. 


Prepare small, specific, lessons that can help the student get introduced to & learn a process or mindset that you feel was integral to your success.

     The more you can teach a student about industry specific knowledge, the more valuable the mentorship will be for them. A few small but specific lessons throughout their program, taught by someone in the industry, can really help them grow their knowledge and skillset. They don’t have to be long or complex, the goal is to get the student thinking about the type of work and ways to accomplish it.


Remember These Are Kids.

     In most cases the student is much younger than you and has grown up within different cultural constraints and opportunities. Work with them to find paths to success, even if they are different from ones you used. This is incredibly important with a lot of businesses utilizing internet resources now that have only been around for roughly a decade. You can probably learn a thing or two from them as well.


     And the most important thing to remember is to be their guide and guardian. Don’t allow anyone, especially a student, to be put into a compromising or unsafe position. You’re there to help them learn and grow safely – and so are your colleagues, customers, and peers.

     Mentorships can be a lot of fun, and definitely create a lot of great opportunities for students and mentors. From personal and 3rd party experience, we’ve seen new clients come through mentorship programs, new ways of working have been developed, and lots of great memories have been made. Be sure to focus on doing what you can to provide information and resources to the student. By the end of the program they should have had a small taste of the industry and be leaving with new knowledge and skills.


Be sure to check out our video about mentorships, linked above. 

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