While mentoring a student or professional protégé can be time consuming, most who have done it say the rewards are worth every minute. Many HSF alumni have volunteered to mentor high school and college students, which is a terrific way to expand the circle of learning in our Hispanic community. We encourage you to share your experience and expertise with up-and-coming young scholars and professionals.
Being a mentor brings many benefits, including making a difference in someone else's life, giving back to society, and contributing to America’s future. You will also learn about yourself in the process and, hopefully, you’ll also have fun.
Becoming a Mentor. As we discussed in last newsletter’s column, many companies, colleges, and organizations have formal mentoring programs, so check out those you have connections with first. You can also volunteer to be a mentor on your own by knowing your area of interest and then identifying a student or co-worker who might be a good match. Remember, though, taking on a mentee is a time commitment so make sure you’re clear about your own reasons for becoming a mentor.
As mentioned above, you will also learn about your own strengths and weaknesses in the process. Are you a good listener? This is essential in a successful mentoring relationship. You should also be flexible, open-minded, and have a basic respect for your mentee. Equally important, you want to bring knowledge and a sincere interest in helping your protégé.
There are also ways to explore whether or not mentoring is for you before engaging in a relationship. You can volunteer to speak about your profession to high school or college students. You can also try mentoring a young person in your community, place of worship, Boys & Girls Club, or a civic organization like the Rotary Club. You can find lists of local and national civic groups on the Internet by searching based on your location and interest. Big Brothers Big Sisters (www.bbbs.org) runs volunteer programs across the country, which provide an excellent training ground for mentoring.
If you are in the sciences, you can be especially helpful as a role model, particularly for young women and minorities, who are significantly underrepresented in the physical sciences, math, and engineering. There are a number of organizations exclusively devoted to mentoring in these fields, such as the Committee on the Advancement of Women in Chemistry (COACh). Organizations that provide mentoring opportunities specifically for Hispanics include the Hispanic Association of College and Universities (HACU), Aspira, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Mentor (http://www.mentoring.org) is another good resource for mentoring articles, tips, and even a toolkit to structure a mentoring partnership.
A successful mentoring relationship is a partnership that focuses on the needs of both participants, with special interest in encouraging the mentee to develop to their fullest potential. Be clear from the beginning what you both hope to gain from the relationship and set benchmarks along the way so you can both measure progress and evaluate whether or not you want to continue. Remember, both sides should gain benefits from the relationship; it’s up to you as the mentor to make sure it does.