Mentoring: Why is it important?

Four university students

As an international student in University of Western Australia, I had a university mentor when I started doing my postgraduate studies, and he is a 60-year-old gentleman. To be honest, I felt anxious at first because that was my first time to study in Australia, I knew the huge difference in educational mode between Australia and my home-country of China. My mentor met me once a week, he helped me analyze and solve recent problems via sharing his personal studying and working experience to me. I gain a lot from my Uni mentor that not only involves studying, living, even working, but deep friendship as well.

However, still many people do not understand the meaning of mentor and the main job for mentoring. Also, the difference between coaching, tutoring and mentoring is not clear in some people’s heart either. In this article, I will illustrate the mentor’s role, qualification and importance.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

1. What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a positive, supportive relationship, encouraging young people like myself, to develop to their fullest potential. Mentoring is multi-faceted; it can be formal or informal and may change and evolve as the needs of the mentee change.

Mentoring is sharing knowledge, skills and life experience to guide another towards reaching their full potential; it’s a journey of shared discovery. For example, my university mentor was just guiding me how to adapt new life in a new country and new university via his own experience.

What is mentoring
what is mentoring
                                   Image from Wikipedia

2. What is the role of a mentor?

The research from University of Washington shows that the knowledge, advice, and resources a mentor shares depend on the format and goals of a specific mentoring relationship, for instance, university mentor is different from career mentor (1). A mentor may share with a mentee information about his or her own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modelling.

3. What are the qualities for a good mentor?

The research of the Franchise Growth Partners points out that a good mentor possesses the following qualities (2):

  • Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise
  • Demonstrates a positive attitude and acts as a positive role model
  • Takes a personal interest in the mentoring relationship
  • Exhibits enthusiasm in the field
  • Values ongoing learning and growth in the field
  • Provides guidance and constructive feedback
  • Respected by colleagues and employees in all levels of the organization
  • Sets and meets ongoing personal and professional goals
  • Values the opinions and initiatives of others
  • Motivates others by setting a good example
Mentor roles
Mentor roles
                                                                               Image from Peopleconnexion

4. How is mentoring different from coaching?

Let’s look at a movie example of mentoring and coaching: Star Wars  Trilogy. Who’s the one person who helps Luke Skywalker develop patience and maturity? Most of you would probably reply that little guy–Yoda–but actually, to some extent, Yoda is more the career coach . He’s trying to teach Luke how to use the force.

The true mentor is Obi-Won Kenobi played by Sir Alec Guinness. He’s the one who first takes Luke under his wing and guides him through the entire first episode of the trilogy, and he’s also the one whose voiceover you hear throughout the series.

The difference between Yoda and Obi-Won is that Yoda is more focused on the skills needed to be a good Jedi Knight, whereas Obi-Won is more interested in assisting Luke in being a good person who is also a good Jedi Knight. Both of these guides complement one another and both are valuable to have.

Therefore, there are some significant difference between mentoring and coaching (3):

  • Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is for a short period of time.
  • Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.
  • A business mentor has first-hand experience of the mentee’s line of work. A business coach, however, does not need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in.
  • The topmost priority of a business mentor is to help develop skills that are not just relevant for the mentees in their present job, but also for the future. For a business coach, the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present job.
Coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring
                                    Image from Bigstock

5. Why mentoring is important

University of Nebraska – Lincoln published a mentoring book explains that mentoring is important, not only because of the knowledge and skills students and young adults can learn from mentors, but also because mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support to facilitate success in school and beyond (4). Quality mentoring greatly enhances students’ chances for success.

Mentoring for success
Mentoring for success
                                                                       Image from Eno Global Media 

Now, I am already in my last year of postgraduate, I have applied Uni mentor which is in next semester, I want to be a mentor to help others just like how my mentor helped me. I hope more people with sufficient experience and skills would join mentoring teams to make communities better.

Feature image from UWA.


To find out how you can give back to the community as a Mentor, visit our volunteering page here.



Evander Yihang Dou

Evander is a future marketing go-getter and current intern on the United Way WA team.

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