[April 7, 2016] I had a great opportunity last week to meet with several secondary school teachers here in New York City. Since they knew my background in the military, they were anxious to get my opinion on and support for their NYC Mentorship Program (NYCMP). The program has some great successes in getting public high school students (i.e., mentees) linked up with mentors (you can read about it the NYCMP here, see link).
Like other city-run school mentorship programs the idea is that every student should have a mentor. Special emphasis is frequently placed on “disadvantaged and troubled” youth. However, while I fully support programs like the NYCMP there are many who believe that not every student should have a mentor and I include myself in that assessment.
Mentees come in all ages and no one should be excluded from the advantages gained from a knowledgeable and successful mentor based on race, gender, religion, etc. Likewise, no mentee should be automatically given a mentor based on these same factors. Not providing a mentor to each person in need may seem harsh and perhaps unfair but it is a fact that not all deserving and willing people respond well to mentorship, nor is there some special “right” for them to have one.
There are many causes that I will not go into here but my list below of good traits for mentees goes a long way to show the flip side of a good mentee. Possession of the right personal traits helps a person respond well to a mentor. Here is my list of must-have traits of a good mentee:
- Passion to be mentored and eagerness to learn.
- Ability to learn from mistakes.
- Devote the time and energy.
- Respectful and grateful.
- Possess realistic expectations and have a plan for the mentor.
- Be tolerant of criticism.
- Accept praise with appreciation.
- Positive attitude.
- Willingness to listen attentively.
- Accepts responsibility for the mentors help.
- Ability to be a team player.
- Risk taker.
These traits are not that different from those of a good leader and that’s my main point. A mentor should be able to see the potential in a mentee; potential that is easily judged to be worthwhile. And we should be capable of admitting that some people will respond better to a mentorship program than others. Those mentees with potential must be first in line for a quality mentor.
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