What Makes a Great Mentor?

Categorized: Mentoring
A mentor and member work together in the music studio

Hint: It has little to do with tech knowledge

We already know that mentoring has the potential to have a big impact on the lives of youth. But what does it take to be a great mentor? We asked four mentor coordinators from across The Network what they look for when recruiting mentors. While there’s no one way to mentor, there are some qualities common across all great mentors.

Calista MacHarrie, Mentor IMPACTS Coordinator at Gold Crown Foundation, Colorado

Great mentors are consistent, caring adults that are curious and passionate about working with youth. They have often had mentors at different stages in their life and benefitted from those relationships. It’s not so important that mentors bring hard skills into the Clubhouse, but more important that they are lifelong learners who value learning, exploring and creating alongside youth.

Jeff Rogers, Clubhouse Mentor Program Manager at The Flagship Clubhouse, Boston, MA

A great mentor doesn’t necessarily have a certain set of tech skills or a cool, high-paying job in the tech sector. They don’t have to be young or hip. The mentors I’ve seen connecting with members have one thing in common: an infectious sense of curiosity about people, projects, and ideas. That curiosity allows them to join or to lead, to fail and to succeed, and members can’t help but get engaged and push their own boundaries, because it’s inspiring to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who doesn’t put any limitations on themselves or on you.

A mentor and member learn how to use virtual reality goggles
Ernesto who is a Clubhouse alum who returned to ListoAmerica to mentor. (Photo via ListoAmerica)

Gustavo Madrigal, Director, Creative Tech Learning and Development at ListoAmerica

When selecting a mentor for our Clubhouse program I’m always on the lookout for many qualities but I feel some of the most important ones are that they bring a curious mind and youthful energy in helping others. They do not need to be young and tech-savvy for our program but they must be willing to be a co-learner with our members. I also look for a passion-driven attitude in their own personal life and that they are pursuing minor and major goals. I find that the mentors who are motivated in their own lives and pursuing goals tend to motivate members very well. Their energy and attitude towards life radiates positively and gets picked up by our members.

Athena Mayo, Mentor Coordinator at Howard Area Community Center Clubhouse

What I look for in a great mentor is someone who is inspirational, ambitious, knowledgeable, and dedicated. Our Clubhouse believes in turning your passion into careers and following your dreams. Our ideal mentor understands that sometimes the journey to pursue your aspirations isn’t easy; it can be challenging, disheartening, risky, and even a bit scary. This mentor had been on that rocky road before, however, they believe in themselves to keep going. Motivation and the willingness to learn is what we encourage our youth to recognize within themselves. They must see that we all believe that anything is possible so they, too, can follow that same mantra. Our ideal mentor will always be supportive and guide our young ones to success through thick and thin.

Curiosity, passion, commitment to lifelong learning: These are the qualities found in our best mentors. One of the most powerful things for youth to see is your willingness to learn right alongside them. Does this sound like you? Are you up for the challenge?