So you want to be a mentor?

Find out how you can get involved

Mentoring plays a crucial role in preparing students for that vital next step. Whether it’s helping them to explore career options, or to research a particular company prior to interview, York alumni have now mentored over 800 students via the York Profiles and Mentors website.

As we look forward to the start of the new academic year, we ask,

Is mentoring for you?

Mentoring can be anything from a few brief email contacts to a long-term coaching relationship. What form that support takes depends on what you are able to offer and what the student’s specific needs are.

The core of a mentoring relationship is conversation, whether by email, phone, Skype, online messaging or face-to-face. Other forms of support offered by some York mentors include:

  • Giving feedback on a CV, application or personal statement
  • Arranging introductions with industry contacts
  • Conducting a mock interview
  • Providing an internship or placement


Any graduate, staff member or former staff member of the University of York can be a mentor on the York Profiles and Mentors website and your support can be valuable to students at any point in your career. For example:

  • If you only graduated a few years ago – you can share your insight into finding a first job, applications and interviews, making the most of time at university, and how to successfully transition to working life.
  • If you are further into your career – you likely have a deep knowledge of the industry sector you work in, and possibly other sectors as well. You are also well-equipped to help students with longer-term career planning and goal-setting, and to help them build confidence and resilience.
  • If you are self-employed – York has many entrepreneurial students who are keen to start their own businesses. These students would greatly value your advice on the challenges and rewards of self-employment.
  • If you are a postgraduate researcher or an academic – the many students who consider academic careers can benefit from your experience of academia and of winning research positions and funding.


On York Profiles & Mentors, students look at profiles to choose which potential mentor they wish to approach. When a student chooses you, they will write a mentoring request, which is then emailed to you. You then get to decide whether you want to mentor them or not.

Your style of mentoring should reflect your own personality, interests and abilities, as well as those of your mentee. There is no template for being a great mentor. However, you may find the following useful as you craft your own mentoring approach.


Let the mentee take the lead

We expect students to take the initiative and drive the mentoring relationship themselves. So encourage your mentee to do that. Ask them what they want from mentoring and what they hope to achieve. Be a guide, not a supervisor.

Set objectives together

Mentoring is usually more effective when it has a clear set of goals that it can be directed towards, especially early in the relationship. Work together with your mentee at the beginning of your contact to define some SMART objectives. Encourage them to make a simple plan for working towards those objectives.

Encourage them to reflect

Often a mentee thinks they need specific, practical help towards a predetermined goal, but really would benefit from revisiting their assumptions and thinking more about the ‘big picture’ of their life.Encourage your mentee to be open-minded and to reflect on their preconceptions about their future:

  • What do they really want from their career?
  • What do they want their daily life to be like?
  • Why do they want what they want?

                      Be a critical friend

A key part of mentoring is being a ‘critical friend’ – being able to tactfully but honestly talk to your mentee about an issue, such as unrealistic expectations or changes that need to be made.

We encourage you to address issues with your mentee as a critical friend, but do so in a tactful and constructive way. For example, if their career plans are unrealistic, openly discuss the challenges they face rather than directly telling them they ‘can’t’ do what they planned.

Don’t worry if you feel uncomfortable addressing an issue with your mentee. In such cases, you can direct them to Careers at the University so that a careers professional can work with the student.

Encourage them to access more help

You don’t need to be an endless source of information and guidance for your mentee. All York students have access to specialist support with careers and skills development as well as other issues such as finance and housing.


If you would like to make a real difference by mentoring a fellow graduate, please visit the YuMentor LinkedIn group. You can also find out more about mentoring current students via the York Profiles & Mentors website. Thank you again to all our wonderful alumni volunteers!