As a PM you will work with some students who aren’t immediately bought into the program. Many of the students who push back initially will benefit from participating, so you should try your best to understand and address the source of their resistance. Here are some of the most common questions and concerns from students and how to respond to them.
I don’t need a mentor. Why do I have to participate?
- Revisit the purpose of a mentor.
- Encourage them to think about times when they have needed help and learned from others. Having a mentor means you’ll have someone who is committed to helping you whenever you need it.
- Some students may say they already have someone like this – emphasize the unique position of the mentor to help with college, and to offer an “outsider’s perspective” that friends/family may not be able to provide. For example, you may get into an argument with friends/family and need someone uninvolved to talk to. That’s your mentor.
- Mentors have work and life experience—that means lots of connections that can help you out when you’re exploring colleges, jobs and internships. Even if your family/friends have great connections, you can never know too many people.
- Give examples of successful mentoring relationships (from your own life or others, like the classroom teacher).
- Reinforce that everyone can benefit from a mentor at some point or another, no matter how high achieving they are.
- Remind the mentee of the fun aspects of the program – there are always fun activities and food at events, plus incentives that you might offer your cohort.
- Having a mentor will be a lot of fun!
- Tip: use stories of mentoring successes to draw the mentee in. Your confidence in the power of mentoring can be really contagious.
I can’t come to afterschool events so I can’t do this program.
- Try to figure out why they can’t attend events. Reasons may include work, family responsibilities, extracurricular activities, etc.
- Brainstorm ways to get around the obstacle. Maybe the student can reschedule their work schedule for the year in advance around event dates, or you can talk to their parents to ease any concerns they may have.
- If the issue is events at night, explain structures in place to get students home as soon as possible.
- Try to convince the student to just come to the first event and see how it goes.
- Events are FUN! Free food, games, and prizes.
- Tip: talk to the student in a way that shows you are working together to find a solution, rather than challenging them. Be sure to set a time to follow up.
I don’t want to write to my mentor!
- Frame writing as an important skill that will help mentees to be successful in high school, college, and a career.
- Ask the mentee what career they want to have one day. Let them know that they will be communicating a lot via writing and this will be great practice.
- Ask if there is any other reason they object to writing to their mentor.
- Let them know that we will be providing them with prompts and guidelines that will make it easier to write every week.
Can I choose my mentor? I only want a mentor who is an actor/lawyer/football player.
- Explain the matching process. We use answers from their application to find the best match based on interests and experiences, so you do get a say in who you’re matched with.
- Unfortunately, our pool of mentors doesn’t represent every profession. We’ll try our best to match you with someone in a field of your interest. But with the help of the curriculum and their work experience, any mentor can help you get where you want to go by guiding you every step of the way (researching professions, writing resumes, practicing interviews, choosing a college and major).
Who are these mentors? I don’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger.
- Share your rigorous screening process.
- Give examples of the different fields of work and educational backgrounds in your mentor pool. Let mentees know that you (or someone from your team) have talked to all the mentors to ensure that only the best candidates get to be mentors.
- The curriculum will help you break the ice!
I’m not planning to go to college so this program doesn’t apply to me.
- Our program will help student learn about college and alternate pathways like certificate programs and gap year programs.
- Keep your mind and options open. Many students change their mind during high school, or years after. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared and have the choice to attend college if you do change your mind. Your mentor can help you explore your options and come to a decision when the time comes.
- A mentor will also help with high school graduation and work skills, which are useful no matter what path you choose to take.
- Tip: share your own story of finding your way to college, or describe a time when you changed your mind about what you wanted to do.
My parent doesn’t want me to do this.
- I’d love to talk to them about the program and address any concerns they have. I’ll give them a call tonight.
- Use these talking points to talk to parents about the program.
I already have a mentor.
- That’s great! Is it informal or through a program? What does the mentorship look like? What does this mentor help you with?
- Explain how this program is unique (structured into school, curriculum, specific focus).
- Most people have many mentors in their lives that advise them on different areas of their lives. You can use all the help you can get when it comes to college and career planning!
- Tip: don’t be dismissive of existing mentors in the mentee’s life. Instead, focus on the benefits of having multiple mentors.
I don’t know if I’ll get along with a mentor who _____.
- We’re going to try our best to match you with someone who you’ll get along with. What type of people do you normally get along with?
- At college/work, you have to adapt to a lot of different personalities. This is a great exercise in getting to know people who may seem different from you at first.
- Tip: this is a great opportunity to get to know the mentee and connect with him/her. Talk about your own experiences with overcoming personality biases and the value of being able to connect with people from different walks of life.
- Try implementing the lesson "Keeping an open mind"
I just don’t want to do this.
- Ask questions to understand where the mentee’s resistance is coming from. Make sure your tone is open and non-confrontational and give the mentee time to answer if they don’t share immediately. Try to find out if there is a component of the program that doesn’t appeal to them, a previous negative experience, misunderstanding about the program, etc. and respond accordingly.
- Try to help the mentee weigh benefits and concerns. Empathize with their apprehension while expressing confidence that they’ll enjoy and gain from the experience.
- Try to learn more about what the student really cares about and try to connect this with the experience of being matched with a mentor in this program (don’t force it though if you don’t think there is a natural fit!)
- Tip: have this conversation one-on-one if you can, in a private space that feels familiar and safe to the mentee (e.g. in the classroom after class). If the mentee seems uncomfortable with the idea of connecting with a mentor, reassure them that the relationship will be monitored and you will be there to address any challenges in the relationship.
- If a particular student shows ongoing resistance, it can be helpful to revisit your one-on-one conversation after getting to know him/her better. Ask other teachers that teach the student if you can observe a class of theirs in the future to see the students in a different classroom environment and show them that you are a part of the school and not just someone who pops in once a week.
- Ask other teachers about specific students who are giving you trouble: “How do you work with Anthony?”, “What have you found that he responds well to?”, “What advice would you give me for working with him in this program?”