What is the role of a mentor?

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The knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depend on the format and goals of a specific mentoring relationship. A mentor may share with a mentee (or protege) information about his or her own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources. The mentor role may change as the needs of the mentee change. Some mentoring relationships are part of structured programs that have specific expectations and guidelines: others are more informal.

The concept of mentoring is simple, but successful implementation can be challenging. A document on disability issues posted by the American Psychological Association lists characteristics of effective mentoring to include "the ability and willingness to

  • value the mentee as a person;
  • develop mutual trust and respect;
  • maintain confidentiality;
  • listen both to what is being said and how it is being said;
  • help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction;
  • focus on the mentee's development and resist the urge to produce a clone."

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Last update or review: January 23, 2013