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Mentorship Matters

Are you looking for new ways to mentor those students who you work with? Check out the information below to aid in making the most of your mentoring experience.

Challenge students with honesty: Many times we hear or see students saying or doing things that inappropriate, but we do not address the behavior and simply say “Kids will be kids.” This is not the attitude to have when you are in a mentor role with a student. Your role as a mentor is to help a student learn and grow, therefore you don’t just write it off as just another comment. You need to be willing to help them develop by being honest with them and helping them look at alternative behaviors for the future.

Be willing to share yourself: One of the most important aspects of mentorship is to be able to share your experiences with the student. Often times the life lessons you have learned with friends, relationships, and classes can be of great benefit to your mentee. Be willing to share your experiences, successes, and defeats so that they can achieve a greater understanding of how to navigate those obstacles.

Assuming Makes a Butt Out of You: Ideally you will be in a position to mentor a student within an area that you specialize in, but this may not always be the case. Be willing to let your mentee know when you don’t have an answer, but also be willing to learn alongside of them to find the answers. Remember that even if a student is nodding their head, they may not fully understand what you are saying to them. Consistently check-in with them and their level of understanding to make sure you are not leaving them behind during the experience.

Be A Mentor: Remember that you can be friendly and helpful while still maintaining clear boundaries and being a mentor. In the eyes of a student you are the authority and expert, so you need to remain as such in your relationship with them while still being approachable. Set clear expectations of when you will be available and when you will not. Being responsive to your mentee’s needs is important, but it is not necessary to be available all the time. It is important to establish regular meeting times when you can be face-to-face. While technology is taking over how we communicate, you will get more out of your mentorship experience by meeting in real time to discuss challenges and progress.

Lose the language and find your purpose: Get rid of the “I am the adult and your mentor and you are the student and my mentee” way of thinking. Work together to decide and understand why you each engaged in this relationship. Work together to decide how each of you can operate both as a mentor and a mentee. What can each of you teach the other? What can each of you learn from the other? In this, you will develop a sense of purpose for your relationship. The mentoring experience should yield just as much growth for you as it does for your mentee.

Small Talk Makes A Big Difference

We’ve all been in those situations at programs, conferences or social gatherings when we have to make small talk, but despite the fact that we talk every day the art of small talk is lost on some. The act of truly being engaged with someone and knowing how to make small talk is the key to networking and development of great relationships, but why is it so difficult? The worst time to think of something to talk about is when there is nothing to talk about so I offer you some quick tips for making the most of those small talk situations:


Do Your Homework: If you know the type of gathering you are going to or you know the people who will be there do a little homework to make sure you have some talking points. The weather is fine to start the conversation, but don’t spend more than a minute talking about the low pressure system coming in this week. Get to know a person’s hobbies, interests and passions and utilize those in your conversation. Stay connected with current events and trends in the field to break the ice.


Be The First To Greet: Offering a handshake and your name first takes the pressure off the other person and allows them to feel more comfortable in the conversation. A person’s natural inclination will be to offer their name when you introduce yourself first, so make it easy for both of you.


Remember The Name: Often times meeting people consists of a whirlwind of names. Take a moment to learn the person’s name and repeat it back to them. Don’t skip over unique names and hope you won’t have to use them. “Can you kindly repeat your name for me” will go a long way in a conversation and shows the person you care about them. Be sure to use their name when leaving the conversation as well.


Handshake Etiquette: We practice our presentations in front of the mirror all the time, so we should be doing the same with our handshakes. Take every chance you get to shake someone’s hand, but remember:

-          Web to web: Don’t grab their fingers or wrist. Get in there for a good shake.

-          3 Second Rule: If your handshakes last more than 3 seconds you are a creeper. Get in and get out.

-          Firm Grips Only: This is your one shot to show your confidence to someone so don’t be bashful about the firmness of your grip.


Accepting Business Cards: If you don’t have a business card on you at all times, you should start carrying a couple. You never know when someone will want your information. When accepting a business card keep the following in mind:

-          Accept the card with both hands and read ALL the information on the card in front of the person

-          Always put the card in the front pocket of your pants (if you are not wearing pants with a pocket then you need to hold onto the card until the person is gone). We all empty our pockets at the end of the day so you are showing that person that they are important enough to  be remembered, as opposed to being placed with the many objects and papers in our wallets/purses or pad folios.

-          Follow up and write down the context of your meeting with the person on the back of their card. If you are accepting lots of cards you will want to remember the conversation or why that person is important.

Use “I Need” Statements: When the conversation is wrapping up or you are looking to leave the conversation, use the phrase “I need” to make a clean getaway. We all know what it’s like to NEED to use the bathroom, freshen a drink or say hi to someone else in the room. Using “I need” shows urgency to the person and not that you are simply trying to get away. When you leave the conversation be sure to say their name and offer something of interest from the conversation. “Bob, it has been a pleasure chatting with you about living learning communities, but I need to use the restroom so I will connect with you later.”


People are interesting so just relax and following these simple steps to improve your small talk and create intentional relationships in social gatherings. Practice makes perfect so place yourself in situations where you can use these tips. Combine them with a genuine intention to get to know the person and you will make the most of your conversation and see that small talk does make a big difference.


Prepare by Jeff Rosenberry, Montana State University Billings

AIMHO President Elect

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