Your mentees and mentors are the heart of your program. Finding the right people who are willing to commit the time to the mentoring relationship is critical to the success of the program. Usually, it is harder to recruit enough mentors than mentees. In your recruitment plan consider and market the benefits of your program to mentors. (see Why be a Mentor and Why Seek out Mentorship)
Mentors often are interested in skills and career development. While they like events for appreciation, more value to them is networking or education and leadership development. When you can target your program to meet their needs as much as your mentees, you will find more success in recruiting the mentors you need.
The hardest time to be recruiting and marketing your program is when you are starting from nothing. If you already have a mentorship program or if you are adding a mentorship program to an existing organization, you can use the network and marketing footprint that exists to build your program. It is much harder when you are starting fresh and you need to make those connections to people and partners. If you are starting a new program, be prepared for things to build more slowly and know that recruiting and marketing will get easier as you get more established.
To understand who a good mentor or mentee for your program would be, you need to understand the overall goal of your program.
You should define clear criteria for your participants, both mentors and mentees. Knowing who your program is working to serve with mentoring, will help you target your recruitment and marketing efforts. It will help you frame the tools, training, and content that you offer to the participants.
You can create criteria by considering:
Personal Qualities: professional, outgoing, empathetic, dedicated, etc.
Demographics: age, gender, education level, employment, etc.
Groups or Professions: students, newcomers, religious organizations, sports teams, teachers, health care workers, etc.
You should create separate criteria for your desired mentors and mentees. For example, your criteria for mentors could include:
Your criteria for mentees could include:
Sometimes it can be hard to sell mentoring to potential participants. If you run into these common concerns, consider these responses to overcome barriers to recruitment. These responses can change depending on who you are talking to and what motivates potential mentors in your area. As you get more familiar with your program and your community, you may find more specific ways to address these barriers.
I don’t have time to be a mentor.
Mentoring seems like a lot of work.
I don’t know how to be a mentor.
I lack the expertise to give a mentee.
Our Community Call about the Recruitment Conversation covers this topic in more detail.
You are always recruiting! Every interaction your program has with community partners, volunteers, participants, the public: you are building up your network and connecting to people who may become mentees or mentors, partners, or champions.
To keep recruitment rolling remember that you can:
Turn mentees into mentors: Mentees, especially if they had a valuable experience as a mentee, can make great mentors, sharing the benefits they gained from your program.
Tell success stories: We love stories. Collect and share stories from mentors and mentees. If you are a new program, share the stories on our website until you collect your own stories.
Use your participants’ network: If your mentors and mentees are enjoying working with you, encourage them to invite people they know to your events or to join the program.
Keep your mentees and mentors happy: Make sure you are meeting the needs of current participants so they will come back and mentor again.
Create partnerships: Encourage local businesses to become partners, send you their employees as mentors or mentees. Your program can be part of their professional development.
Presentations & Booths: Do presentations or set up booths at relevant events, conferences, career fairs. This is a great way to create a presence where your potential participants might be.
Our Community Call about Mentor Recruitment covers this topic in more detail.
Extend your reach with partnerships with community businesses and organizations. These partnerships could help you access potential participants and resources. This can also help you market your program through your partners and their clients or customers.
Informal partnerships can be quite simple with businesses or organizations referring people to you as participants. Formal partnerships have clear expectations that both you and your partner will fulfill. For example, a business could encourage employees to be mentors knowing that their employees would gain leadership and communication skills by participating in your program. Or a settlement organization can send potential mentees to you to complement their other services to newcomers. Your partners can also be advisors or board members to help with the strategic direction of your program.
Ideally, partners would have goals and values that match yours. Often it takes time and trust to set up a partnership, so it can be useful to start with informal partnerships and move towards formal ones when you find the partners who would be the best fit.