Formal Mentoring

mentor and mentee doing science projectFormal mentoring is defined as a program or organization whose main mission and focus is to connect adults (or peers) and youth in meaningful relationships where the adult/peer acts as a mentor. Formal mentoring is structured, taking place within programs that place parameters around the mentoring relationship and provide ongoing support to matches. Structured programs have a required or recommended time commitment (ranging from an hour a month to several hours per week or more) and match length (ranging from a few months to a few years).

Types of Formal Mentoring

One-to-one mentoring matches one young person with one adult mentor

Group mentoring involves one adult mentor working with up to four young people

Team mentoring is where several adult mentors mentor small groups of young people

E-mentoring involves mentoring via online platform, email, social media, and/or other forms of virtual communication and can be done in conjunction with in-person mentoring

Peer mentoring typically involves a youth mentoring another youth (most often with at least three years age difference)

Focuses of Formal Mentoring

While each formal mentoring program has its own set of goals and desired outcomes, there are several focuses that are gaining steam and becoming more common. These include critical mentoring, STEM mentoring, and workplace mentoring.

Critical Mentoring

Critical mentoring, a term coined by scholar-practitioner Dr. Torie Wieston-Serdan, disrupts savorism models that exist in traditional mentoring programs and considers how race, class, gender, sexuality, and other identities impact how youth experience the world and mentoring relationships. Undergirded by critical race theory, cultural competence, and intersectionality, the framework offers a transformational reimagining of what equitable mentoring relationships look like and the impact they can foster in our larger society.

STEM Mentoring

STEM mentoring is one of the fastest-growing areas of the mentoring movement. It involves the use of mentors to get young people interested in, planning toward, and persisting in science-related educational and career opportunities. In recent years, mentoring has become a cornerstone approach⎯from K12 settings through higher education and early career development⎯to increasing American performance in STEM and addressing issues of historical underrepresentation in STEM careers. Organizations like US2020 and Million Women Mentors have made tremendous progress engaging STEM companies and employees as mentors to a generation of students.

Workplace Mentoring

While there are many ways that mentors can support youth of all ages as they learn about, explore, and engage in career pathways, workplace mentoring most offer refers to mentoring for young adults (16–24) that connects employees of a business or a particular industry to serve as mentors to youth who are considering a career in that industry or related field. It may also involve bringing mentees to job sites and workplace environments for hands-on learning and shadowing, and offering both job-related skill development and socioemotional support to ease the transition into the role of a worker.