mentoring young adults

Mentoring Young Adults - Youth Mentorship Can Have a Big Impact

People make their first pivotal life decisions between the ages of 18 to 24. This age period, 18-24, is when we refer to a person as a young adult. Anyone who chooses to mentor a young adult, in no small ways, contributes to the success we see today in the world.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

— Isaac Newton

We set out on our first career paths, educational trajectories, and other personal choices in this 18-24 age period. Considering the crucial importance of these decisions and the general lack of experience, young adults may experience confusion and intense pressure4.

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”

— Denzel Washington

Mentoring Young Adults
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Mentor a young adult to exchange valuable experience

Without proper guidance and help, young adults may make misinformed choices, personally and professionally, that may affect them significantly. As an older person with valuable experience, you could mentor a young adult. You can help steer them in the right direction and avoid the heartache and time-wasting that comes from making the wrong choices in their early adulthood.

No one grows, lives, or succeeds without any influence from another person. Mentorship is a way to influence another person's life decisions and style purposely. A mentor gives psychological and professional support to the mentee.

Good mentorship can positively impact a person's work, soft skills, career, personality, and lifestyle. Mentorship is a relationship between someone with vast experience and someone with less experience to guide the latter through gaining their own experience.

The communication style in mentorship is informal regardless of the circumstances of the setup protocol. Mentorship may last for a lifetime or until the mentee has learned enough to stand on their own. Mentorship matches can occur anywhere; the workplace, school, neighbourhood, and business.

When Mentoring Young Adults, What Makes a Good Youth Mentor?

Mentors are people willing to use their wisdom, knowledge, and experiences for the good of those around them. A mentor is anyone who has greater relevant knowledge and experience. Who through one-on-one contact benefits someone with less experience.

A mentor offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or advice that is beneficial to the other person in the relationship which goes beyond duty or obligation.

We call the person receiving mentoring a mentee or a protégé. This is someone who wants to learn from someone who knows better and seeks their advice to grow professionally and personally. They seek to gain from someone else's experience through guidance and ongoing support.

Mentorship can be formal or informal. Formal mentorship is one in which the parties establish the mentoring relationship (or mentorship program) by an institutional protocol. Formal mentoring in institutions can help to engage and develop new members in an organization.

Performance Gains

A study by the Corporate Leadership Council found employees who are most engaged at work perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization3. People establish informal mentorships when a relationship naturally blooms between one who has valuable experience and another who wants to learn from that experience.

Leo M. Lambert is the former president of Elon University. In the 2018 Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey, Mentoring College Students to Success he shares his thoughts on mentorship. He proposed that mentoring relationships are a form of social capital.

Lambert says,

"My instincts tell me there is a strong connection between the reported level of academic challenge students experience and the strength of mentoring relationships students form with faculty… My two decades of observation as a college president tell me that students seek challenge from (and work extra hard for) faculty members whom they hold in high esteem and who provide the right balance of challenge and support."

The Impact of Mentoring a Young Adult

Mentor & Mentee
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Having a mentor can provide many benefits that improve the overall quality of a young person's life. John Crosby said, "Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction." A mentor helps to shorten the learning curve of the mentee. They open the mind to new possibilities, opportunities, and give good advice on how to conduct one's self.

As a young adult's mentor, you provide a safe environment where they can reflect and question without fear of being judged.

You also have the responsibility of ensuring the confidentiality of the relationship. You act as a guide providing them with the best options and timely warnings against likely pitfalls and challenges. Most importantly being a mentor makes you a role model, your life and actions directly influence your mentee's outlook on life.

Life & skills

Mentoring youth is one way to ensure their up-skilling. In a mentoring program, they are exposed to best practices and trusted methods of getting things done. This helps increase their professional development opportunities.

By observing the mentor's approach to coordinating mentoring activities, young adults can refine their leadership skills. One very important skill that passes from mentor to mentee is the problem-solving skill.

Young adults can observe and be part of problem-solving processes, equipping them with the know-how to solve future problems. We can learn good interpersonal skills in the process of mentoring. A mentee learns the value of trust, a positive attitude, confidentiality, communication, mutual respect, and helpfulness. A mentoring program also gives young adults a chance to build their professional network, advance their careers, and stay on track.

Mentors may also choose to help the mentee develop approaches to work and growth, encouraging personal development, mindfulness or encouraging them to build a growth mindset. All of which can help them improve their self-esteem. Additionally, mentorship can prove beneficial in overcoming problems such as substance abuse through shared experience and guidance.

Related: You might also find yourself or your mentee inspired by these mindfulness quotes.

Mentoring Young Adults

With a mentor in their lives, young adults stand to reap tremendous benefits. They would have access to valuable advice and insight into what it takes to get ahead in life.

Through the experience of the mentor, they can plan their own lives to make better use of opportunities and talents. Mentors can help identify and maximize certain unique skills and talents that may be unnoticed or underdeveloped.

A mentor also serves as a "sounding board" for ideas and problems. They can offer assistance in the execution of ideas and guidance on the best way to deal with tricky situations.

With the value of experience a mentor can offer young adults, are less likely to derail completely from their goals and aspirations. In a mentor, a young person can find a friend, a counsellor, a teacher, a coach, a critic, and a helper all rolled into one. Similarly, whereas the mentoring file is broad, a young person may choose to work with a mentor related to a specific goal, such as entering the workforce or progressing in the chosen field through to entry or success in higher education.

Qualities of Mentors Who Make a Difference

Being a good mentor is not dependent on the vastness of experience alone. There are qualities one must possess to ensure a healthy mentoring relationship1.

A mentor must be very patient and nurturing. The mind of a young adult is not a tabula rasa. They already have their own experience, personal stories and opinions which is sometimes quite opposite to the mentors.

Becoming a mentor requires the ability to wait patiently for the mentee's orientation to change. Mentors are interested in the growth and development of the mentee, they have constantly provided nurturing through advice, regular communication, and help.

The ability to keep an open mind is crucial to good mentorship. A mentor should not invalidate the mentee's experience and ideas just because of the difference in inexperience. The mentor may also learn from the mentee.

Tolerating differences, peculiarities, and obvious flaws are important in a mentoring program. As young people are less experienced than you are, and don't have the same knowledge that guides you.

Giving to succeed

Furthermore, mentors must have a willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise. They must be ready to explain processes clearly and give out important information. There is no room for hoarding information or knowledge in mentorship. Good communication skills are important when considering being a young person's mentor.

You need to have the ability to relate with them at their level and break down complex concepts to their understanding. We can characterize good communication, not only by effective speaking but also by active listening.

A mentor should be available and accessible, and prepared to meet regularly. And successful youth mentoring largely depends on how much time mentors and mentees can spend together, physically or virtually. A mentor's dependability and trustworthiness also play a huge part in good mentorship.

Mentees should be able to rely on the promises of the mentor and trust in the authenticity of information and intention. A mentor should have integrity and good values as he is a role model for the mentee.

Making a Mentorship Relationship Work

Making a Mentorship Relationship Work
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For mentorship to work some certain measures need to be in place. To begin with, mentorship is not a one-way street. Although knowledge is flowing from the mentor to the mentee, they should include the mentee in the planning activities.

The mentee should, to some extent, decide the direction of discussion and learning most of the time. Also, the mentor should set personal and professional boundaries for themself and their charge.

A mentor should not interfere directly in the mentee's family matters or try to replace family members. Both parties should keep intimacy on a platonic level. Most importantly, mentorship should not replace professional help services like therapy, marriage counselling, educational consultancy, etc. A mentor should encourage their mentee to get professional help when needed.

Trust and honesty

In mentorship, honesty is indeed the best policy. You should give advice, praise, and critique with all Sincerity. Mentors should meet the actions of their mentees with timely positive or negative reinforcement as required.

With mentorship, leading by example should not be compromised, as it helps build trust. Also, a mentor should keep a level head and stable emotions when confronted by challenges. This makes the mentee more confident in themselves and the mentor.

The type of mentorship a person receives will largely influence how they behave when they find themself in a position of authority. This reveals that mentors through their influence on one individual can shape socio-political structures. Being a mentor to a young person is a chance to shape a life and give back to society. However, it is not without advantages to the mentor.

Mentorship puts the leadership qualities of the mentor to a test and offers the opportunity of evaluation. Therefore revealing areas for improvement while honing existing capabilities. Mentorship gives the mentor the chance to leave behind a good legacy, one that benefits more than just their families. Mentors can reach great heights of self-fulfilment by their selfless service of mentoring.

Famous examples of mentoring young adults

The lives of a lot of people have turned out well thanks to the relentless efforts of their volunteer mentors. Christian Dior mentored the famous fashion designer Yves St. Laurent when he moved to Paris. Dior allowed YSL to take over as the designer of the Dior couture house at the age of 21. An event that marked a turning point in his career.

Popular talk show host and business mogul, Oprah Winfrey, credits late poet and author, Maya Angelou, as her mentor. She says of her mentor, "She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life," and adds that "Mentors are important and I don't think anybody makes it in the world without some form of mentorship."

Billionaire CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, thanks Former Apple Inc. CEO, the late Steve Jobs, for mentoring him. After Jobs' passing in 2011, Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page, "Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you."

Finding a Mentor

Budding adults can find mentors in different places. Start in the most obvious places. Who are the adults you respect/look up to/want to emulate around you? Chances are, you already have a relationship with them. This provides you with a starting point to initiate a mentorship relationship.

Groups and organizations such as boys and girls clubs or community organizations provide mentors for their younger community. A Google search of 'mentoring programs near me, 'mentorship programs near me, or 'mentor programs near me' should show some helpful results.

Many more mentor engagements happen online following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to research by the American Journal of Community Psychology, the mentee can struggle to open up in an online setting2; the mentor should be mindful of finding the right setting for the individual involved.

The rewards of mentoring a young person are helpful and long-lasting for both the mentor and mentee. We can, in our small ways, change lives for better and accelerate careers through mentorship.

Adults and the elderly can help young people make the best choices in careers, relationships, entrepreneurship, and work by providing mentoring. People can pass age-old skills and their best practices from generation to generation. You can contribute your quota to building a better world through mentoring.

Truly mentoring comes with no monetary benefits, but the personal accomplishment you gain is priceless. Young persons in need of mentorship are in every workplace, schools, the local coffee shop, your intern office, and neighbourhood. Without searching too hard you'll find someone around you who shows a willingness to learn and could benefit from your guidance and encouragement.


If you are looking to make a lasting impact on the lives of real people, mentorship is the way to go. Rather than write your name in the loose sands of time where the winds will blow it away, why not mentor a young adult and carve your name in the hearts of people?

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1Straus, S. E., Johnson, M. O., Marquez, C., & Feldman, M. D. (2013). Characteristics of successful and failed mentoring relationships: a qualitative study across two academic health centers. Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 88(1), 82–89.

Kaufman, Michelle & Wright, Kate & Simon, Jeannette & Edwards, Giselle & Thrul, Johannes & Dubois, David. (2021). Mentoring in the Time of COVID‐19: An Analysis of Online Focus Groups with Mentors to Youth. American Journal of Community Psychology. 69. 10.1002/ajcp.12543.

3Morris, Jacob, "Examining Employee Engagement to Predict Retention Rates" (2016). Senior Projects. Paper 7.
4Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2015. Investing in the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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