"A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself." -- Oprah Winfrey
January is National Mentoring Month (NMM)--the largest-scale campaign to promote the power and value of mentoring nationwide. The campaign was launched in 2002 by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Around the country this month, people will be celebrating the tremendous impact that mentoring has on individual lives.
Mentoring is far from a new practice. The term was inspired by Mentor, a character in Homer’s Odyssey, which dates back to the 8th century BC. While Mentor himself was not an adviser, the goddess Athena would often appear in disguise as Mentor to provide guidance to Odysseus’s son Telemachus.
In the 20th century, the concept of mentoring was popularized by advocates for workplace equity, along with terms such as glass ceiling, networking and role model. Business literature adopted these terms and promoted them as avenues to advancement for those interested in climbing within their chosen professions. By the mid-1990s, these terms had become part of everyday speech. (Laird, 2006)
Twenty years later, the concept of mentoring continues to grow and its definition expand. The benefits of mentoring youth are well-known thanks to successful and impactful organizations like MENTOR and Big Brothers and Big Sister of America which promote success metrics such as:
- Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class. (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)
- Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor. (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)
- Mentored students are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)
Aside from the social benefits, there’s an economic imperative to connecting young people with mentors, too. The 2014 The Mentoring Effect report--commissioned by MENTOR--found that “young adults who are not connected cost society $93 billion annually in lost wages, taxes, and social services. On the other hand, recent data show that every dollar invested in quality youth mentoring programs yields a $3 return in benefits.”
In addition to youth mentoring, corporate mentoring emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. Many mid-size and large organizations established both formal and informal mentoring programs for their employees. These corporate programs, which continue to gain in popularity, achieve a variety of objectives including new hire mentoring, career development, diversity mentoring, and knowledge transfer mentoring.
An American Society for Training and Development study found that 71% of Fortune 500 companies have some type of corporate mentorship program. These include: Google, General Electric, Sodexo, Intel and Caterpillar. It also found that 75% of private sector executives say mentoring has been critical in their own career development.
At Shearwater, our mission is to expand this great mentoring movement by providing valuable mentorship in the gap between the successful youth initiatives and the developing corporate landscape. Our programs are geared toward mentoring new college students. Our preliminary focus has been on providing support to at-risk college students who might benefit most from having a personal mentor. These include first-generation, international, low-income and adult online students. As with other mentoring initiatives, the benefits of mentoring college students is self-evident:
- A U.S. Department of Education study, found that students who received mentoring from advisors regularly during their first year in college had a 170% greater chance of completing their bachelors degree than those that did not.
- One of Shearwater's randomized controlled trials showed that students offered our mentorship program were 9% more likely to stay in school and 5 times less likely to be on academic probation.
With across-the-board success in all types of mentorship programs, we hope you will join us during National Mentoring Month to raise awareness of the life-changing benefits of mentor/mentee relationships.
Laird, Pamela Walker (2006). Pull: Networking and Success since Benjamin Franklin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674025530.