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What makes a good mentor?

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

During February and March we will be publishing a series of blogs as part of our University of Nottingham Intern Takeover #UoNinterntakeover

We have welcomed four interns from the University to support the research and development towards an enhanced intervention delivery model ready for our re-entry into prisons after the pandemic.

Aleksandra Lasak, BA Criminology student,

kicks us off with her first blog post, giving her insight on what makes a good mentor.


Mentoring can be delivered in many ways: it can be structured and formal, but it can also

happen among groups of peers and manifest itself in a more spontaneous and informal way.

For instance, its traditional form, which is also the most common type of mentoring, relies on a

power dynamic which is centred around teaching and directing the mentee. On the other hand,

other types of mentoring might be mutually directed and have different objectives.

An example of an alternative type of mentoring is reverse mentoring, which utilises a more

dynamic and flexible approach. It relies on the assumption that both the mentor and the mentee

co-create knowledge and that both parties can learn from each other. I believe this strategy is

essential to sports-based mentor programmes as it can help develop a mentoring strategy which can evolve and adapt itself to different contexts and people.

However, mentoring can also be a complex and more challenging process than what it might

appear at first. A mentor is neither a teacher nor exactly a friend to the mentee. It is someone

who guides them and shares valuable knowledge and experiences with them whilst also being a reliable adult who can offer advice on important matters. They are someone they can look up to

and, for younger people, they can often represent the only reliable adult in their lives.

So, what characteristics should a ‘good’ mentor have? We collected information and opinions

from people who have had experience with either being a mentor or a mentee and we found that there are some characteristics which every good mentor should have. First, a good mentor

is a positive role model, someone who has lived through similar experiences to those they mentor and thus can relate to their struggles and emotions. A mentor should also avoid being

judgemental and do their best to promote an understanding and supporting environment.

Additionally, the mentor is someone who sees the mentee’s true potential and pushes them to

realise it by helping them develop social skills and self-esteem.

"A key element, which should be the foundation of not only mentoring relationships but of all human relationships, is love and genuine care for others"

We also met with a graduate of 3Pillars Project who shared his personal experience and

impressions of the programme. According to him, a key element, which should be the foundation of not only mentoring relationships but of all human relationships, is love and genuine care for others. Many young people who experience adverse childhood experiences or who go through the various institutions of the Criminal Justice System rarely encounter genuine sentiments and meeting that one person who does care can be life changing.


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