What is a Mentor and how can I benefit?

One of the most common questions I receive from parents and young adults is, “What is a mentor?”

Would you believe that more than 50 definitions of mentorship exist?  Whew! No wonder there’s so much confusion. 

It’s not surprising that there are so many different definitions, approaches and concepts of mentorship, considering that it has roots in ancient history.

In fact, it has been around so long in one form or another that we can say it is an essential human need.

Nonetheless, it is an experience which many young adults today are missing out on. 

I’m not going to run through 50 different definitions with you, that would just confuse the matter more, right?  

Instead, I’d like to talk to you about how we approach mentorship here at Positive Presence.

What Mentorship Isn’t

First of all, a mentor isn’t the same thing as a counselor or a therapist, though the roles do overlap in some respects.

For one thing, therapists diagnose which is NOT something we as mentors do.  We are NOT here to tell you if your child has depression, anxiety, or another condition. We are here to provide tools and support for the everyday challenges life throws at our students.  

The other major difference is that both therapy and counseling are intended to be short-term solutions which are structured around solving a specific problem or diagnosis.

A therapist or counselor helps to identify a specialized life problem, offer a solution, and act as a sounding board, but a mentor is the student’s ally through a broad range of struggles. 

Mentoring is intended as a long-term, consistent relationship which is structured around the student.

The goal of mentoring is to support, validate and sometimes challenge our student’s efforts toward self-discovery, confidence-building, and overall character development. 

What Mentorship at Positive Presence Is All About

Most adults reflect on their younger years as a time when they simply needed someone to talk to about everyday problems that were faced with.  Just like young adults today, I’m sure the last person you wanted to talk to was your mom or dad.  

Parents, friends and teachers all provide vital support and guidance, but sometimes, there is a need to turn to someone who can offer support and trust without judgments or expectations.

I heard a great metaphor once that life is like a painting. If you are standing too far back, you miss the details, but if you are standing too close, you get lost in a sea of colors and miss the bigger picture.

Our mentor coaching methodology takes this approach.  Our mentors and I understand that as a parent, it is hard sometimes to pull back and see—or offer—the perspective your young adults need at times. We are always standing close whether we want to admit it or not, because that’s where we are needed as parents. 

But sometimes our young adults also need someone who can stand back and offer a broader perspective…

And that is where a mentor comes in.

A mentor is able to stand far enough back from the painting to help make sense of a particular challenge, struggle, or vision—but is also able to stand close enough to empathize and provide unwavering emotional support.  The beauty of this type of relationship is that we can switch as needed without skipping a beat in the growth and life of the student.

Our Mentors Show Up the Way They Need Us To

I believe deeply in a client-led approach to mentorship, but I also believe that sometimes we need to lead those we coach down a positive path before they might be able to lead themselves. 

Different personalities call for different mentoring styles, sometimes, different situations do as well.  Even on a day-to-day level, what a client needs can change.

In every instance, each of our mentors strives to offer a secure base and truly be a pillar of strength for a young person.

A mentor is someone to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, to learn from, to challenge assumptions, to reflect on a client’s highest potential, and to serve as an emotional protector.

But the shape that takes is entirely up to the client.  Different personalities call for different mentoring styles.  And sometimes, different situations do as well. Even on a day-to-day level, what a client needs can change.   

A mentor can …

  • Listen like a therapist
  • Advise like a counselor
  • Motivate like a sports coach
  • Provide structure like a teacher
  • Be there like a brother or sister
  • Laugh, cry and share like a friend

With the right match, a mentor can be there for a client over the course of many years—a constant in a sea of ever-changing life variables.

Our coaches come from all walks of life and have diverse educational backgrounds and professional experiences.

They also each have faced their own unique challenges and bring those diverse personal experiences to the table as well. 

Through that diversity, and by having the client determine the role the mentor will take, we offer a best-of-all-worlds experience to help a young person grow in a way which is right for them.

Could Your Teen Benefit from a Positive Presence Mentor?

If you think that your teen could grow through a mentoring relationship, I would love to set up a free consultation. During our chat, we can discuss their obstacles and goals and brainstorm how we can  help.

In the meantime, access our FREE RESOURCE PAGE and download a copy of our 10 Tips to Talking to Your Teenager and other positive resources. You can also browse our online training catalog to learn more about our programs here at Positive Presence.  I look forward to meeting you and working with you and your teen!

In love and light, Michelle Marie King

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Jasmine, a Human Relations major at the University of Oakland is a dynamic community role model. As a generational member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc, she embodies a zest for excellence. Her bubbly personality and kind hearted nature touches the lives of everyone she comes into contact with. Her desire for being a positive catalyst is the reason why Jasmine is such a good fit with the Positive Presence Coaching Program. This creative young woman displays the trademarks of a great leader – skills she desires to impart on the next generation.

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