The search for the ‘perfect mentor’


For National Mentoring Day we posed a question.

What does the perfect mentor ‘look’ like?

We will try and answer this in two ways, with a short answer and in detail.

The short answer…the perfect mentor probably looks like YOU!

The fact you’re reading this means you’re either interested in mentoring or being mentored and that’s half the battle. You may have considered giving back, knowing you’ve learnt from life’s many challenges and from your own mistakes. Ironically, the more mistakes you’ve made and less ‘perfect’ you are, the better mentor you’re more likely to be.

The longer answer begins with…there is no ‘perfect mentor’.

At Transitions UK we work with people from all backgrounds and skill sets. This is definitely not about one size fits all.

We have teachers and other professionals who mentor our young people, but we also welcome people who have had to overcome a lot in life, including reformed criminals. Who better to tell a young person that crime doesn’t pay in our Aspire project for example than someone who may have gone to jail penniless and come out with nothing, having to restart again and made a success of their life. It takes a lot to admit to yourself you’ve failed at something, yet changed the course of your life for the better.

Young people are often groomed into crime, getting attention they may not have received at home or in the care system. Those who have mental health or learning difficulties are often more susceptible to being groomed. We try to find a variety of mentors to match a young person’s circumstances. If we can, we match them to their interests and our four distinct projects.

Achieve – for young people with learning disabilities

Attain – for young people leaving care

Aspire – for young people at risk of criminal exploitation or offending

Affirm – for young people with mental health needs or emotional needs

For us mentoring really depends on two things firstly what is the aim or theme, for example: is it to help a young person avoid crime, is it to help them get a job or start a business and the second thing that is important, is how committed are they?

One of the biggest problems Transitions UK and the young people we support face, are people dipping in and out of their lives. This can lead to a sense of abandonment and rejection. Just by showing up when you say you will, by showing up consistently, you may create a new experience for a young person that changes their life forever. Consistency is free to give, but a young person may never have had a really consistent person in their life before. Yet we expect them to head out and trust the system or be positive members of society, when in many ways, they don’t know what that looks like.

This is where you, the ‘perfect mentor’ for that individual, comes in.

We cannot emphasise enough how keeping your word is the catalyst for a mentor to change a person’s life.

My journey to Transitions UK started approximately 15 years before I met them, at a charity working with youth at risk. I immediately started a journey of lifelong learning, which is still happening today, because I realised that helping another person actually helps me too. It was like a Eureka moment, I discovered the key to managing my thoughts and feeling a valuable member of society. It wasn’t about money alone (clearly as volunteering is not about money), but it gave me a connection money can’t buy. The training goes in a different way when you are not counting your time and seeing out your hours to tick boxes.

I have since learnt about cognitive behaviour therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, life coaching, counselling and all because I took those first steps to volunteer a couple of hours a week. I loved it so much my volunteering went on for nearly three years.

At Transitions UK we value our mentors so highly that not only do we provide training in the right mindset and safeguarding, but we also provide ongoing support for mentors including a monthly online zoom session called the ‘Big Volunteer Chat.

The next ‘Big Volunteer Chat’ focuses on county lines and providing more information and signs of exploitation for our mentors. A Police constable from Aylesbury police station will be joining us to give a presentation to our mentors. It’s shaping up to be a great session.

We train mentors to learn how to deal with engagement with young people and are continuously updating our training, which includes ongoing sessions to develop experientially as you work with your young person/people, new questions, challenges and as revelations arise. That’s where the real learning begins.

To become a Transitions UK mentor, you really just need to want to make a difference. We will work with people from all backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion are not just a tick box exercise at Transitions UK and therefore we can adapt some volunteering to your particular background, needs and skill set. There are various roles available, from admin. support from home to meeting young people face to face weekly.

If you would like to change two lives, with one decision, then contact us and talk about becoming a mentor. Change their life, and change yours, by showing up!

Written by Michael Green, Aspire Plus Hub Coordinator, Central Bedfordshire