How to get started? My tasks as a Mentor | Mentoring under Construction

Mentoring under Construciton MeetUP FB Cover [Jon Tyson via unsplash]
MuC MeetUP | Image: Jon Tyson via

The content of this blog post has been created in the context of Mentoring under Construction. Mentoring under Construction is a community for mentoring practitioners within the European Solidarity Corps programme.

It’s autumn. Are you just about to embark in a mentoring journey with a new volunteer? And you are not exactly sure, what are your tasks? – During our MeetUP we discussed and clarified what are the most important tasks as a mentor and how to get started:

  • Getting to know the tasks of a mentor
  • Clarifying what mentoring support is about
  • Brainstorming ideas on how to best start with mentoring

This MeetUP was especially directed to people who are new to our Mentoring under Construction Community and to Mentoring within the European Solidarity Corps programme.

Why this topic?

The research Mentoring and Coaching under Construction (2023) pointed out that there are very diverse understandings of the role and tasks of a mentors. The current definition provided in the Programme guide is not sufficient and this leads to a broad variety of understandings among mentors, organisations and National Agencies. Within the Mentoring under Construction Community we started an initiative to seek some clarity.

3 reasons why it is important to have clarity about the tasks of a mentor

Alignment with the ESC’s Objectives

The European Solidarity Corps has specific objectives aimed at fostering solidarity, promoting cultural understanding, and empowering the youth in the European Union. Understanding the mentor’s role ensures that these objectives are met and that the mentor can contribute effectively.

Effective Guidance

A mentor’s primary role is to guide, support, and inspire the volunteers. Knowing the specifics of this role ensures that the mentor can provide relevant and timely advice, helping volunteers navigate challenges and make the most of their experience.

Ensuring Continuity and Legacy

The mentor could ensure that the impact of the project continues even after its completion. They play a role in passing on the knowledge, experiences, and best practices to future projects and volunteers.

The tasks of a Mentor

The following is a list of support tasks both of organisation and mentors:

Support tasks of organisation and mentors

  • Providing orientation and training
  • Carrying out monitoring and evaluation
  • Taking care about the well-being of the volunteer
  • Accompanying the local and cultural integration
  • Facilitating learning and development
  • Assisting the volunteer in dealing with difficult situations and conflicts
  • Raising awareness about solidarity
  • Ensuring inclusion
  • Managing groups and teams
  • Documenting, reporting and communication

Please remember, not every organisations will set up mentoring in that way and the job descriptions of mentors might quite differ from one another. However, this list is a good starting point for a conversation between the organisation and the mentor, which of the following tasks fall into the responsibility of the organisation or the mentor, or which one is a shared task.

In the following step, together with the MeetUP participants (You find the list on our MuC Event Documentation padlet).

The whole list of tasks might be overwhelming and difficult to start with if you are a new mentor. One way of prioritizing tasks is to differentiate between core tasks and additional (or non-core) tasks: Core tasks refer to mentoring activities that essential for the quality of a volunteering project. They contribute to the value of the service both for the organisation and the volunteer.

According to the ESC Programme Guide and the McuR, there are three core tasks a mentor could/should focus on:

Core Tasks (according to the programme)

  • Taking care about the well-being of the volunteer
  • Facilitating learning and development
  • Assisting the volunteer in dealing with problems and difficult situations

Core Tasks (according to research)

  • Accompanying the local and cultural integration
  • Facilitating learning and development
  • Assisting the volunteer in dealing with problems and difficult situations

How to get started as a mentor

Now, so far we tried to clarified the tasks of a mentor on a general level. What you as a mentor must do is to adjust your tasks to the needs of your organisation and to the expectations of your volunteer. Hence, a good way to get started as a mentor is to clarify your tasks in two steps…

Step 1: Clarify with your organisation

What are my tasks as a mentor? – For this you can easily use the task list and agree on core and additional tasks (see above!)

Step 2: Clarify with your volunteer

What will you focus on as a mentor? – A great tool to clarify tasks with your volunteer is the mentor-volunteer agreement (also called “contract”).

The mentor-volunteer contract

Clarifying expectations towards one another, agreeing on how to work together and defining what mentoring is all about is part of the so-called contracting.

What is a contract in the context of mentoring in the EU Solidarity Corps programme? At first it might sound like a formal procedure, but it definitely is not. It’s more of a verbal agreement between the mentor and the volunteer. Contracting is a process which helps to discuss important issues for working together, which also gives a more structured approach.

The Contract - Thematic Areas
The Contract – Thematic Areas

Such a conversations touches on the following areas:

  • The boundaries of mentoring – deciding on the “general territory” of the relationship –
  • which field of ESC experience will you be focusing on?
  • Content and aims of mentoring – specific learning and development objectives you
  • will be working on
  • Conditions – the way you will work together
  • The basis of relationship – principles you’ll basing your cooperation on
  • Expectations – what you expect from the process and each other
  • Anything else

Source: Meant to be a Mentor. Workbook for Mentors

Download The Mentor-Volunteer Contract (Handout, PDF)

Recommendations for using the contract

  1. The number of questions may be overwhelming. Don’t see this as a checklist that you need to work through. Rather, it is a reflection tool that helps you to become aware of areas that you can address.
  2. Start with a small number of questions. Choose only those that are important to you and that suit your conversation style. Then make sure to adapt them to your situation.
  3. Last but not least, consider this contract a general suggestion for helping you and the volunteer to understand the name and nature of your relationship. Use it in any way that suits your relationship dynamics, your role and your context, either fully or partially.

7 tips to make the most out of mentoring

Finally, here are 7 tips to make the best out of your mentoring journey:

  • get to know your volunteer and build together a relationship of trust,
  • clarify expectations towards one another and make a mentoring agreement (contract),
  • clarify core responsibilities, e.g. the volunteer is responsible for his/her own volunteering journey, the mentor is responsible for giving support and guidance,
  • plan a rough outline of meetings and what you would like to do together and cover each session
  • prepare questions that allow changing perspective, reflect the learning journey and/or develop next steps,
  • expect to make some mistakes (you learn from them)
  • be open to give and receive feedback (you learn from that too)

Recommended Resources

Getting started with mentoring

Learn to be a Mentor. Resources for Mentoring Volunteers by Michael Kimmig

Youthpass Heart Corps. Guiding the learning journey. Online Course

Meant to be a Mentor. Workbook for EVS Mentors by Michael Kimmig (2015): ; Foundation for the Development of the Education System / Fundacja Rozwoju Systemu Edukacji, Warsaw, Warszawa

The research

Corina Pintea, Marzena Ples and Darko Markovic: Mentoring and Coaching within the European Solidarity Corps. Common Practices under Research; OeAD-GmbH, Vienna, 2023

Mentoring under Construction. Join our Community

The Mentoring under Construction Community is open for everyone who is interested in raising the quality in mentoring within European Solidarity Corps programme (and beyond): mentors, project managers/organisers, coordinators of volunteers, facilitators of learning, authors and trainers, and members of National Agencies and SALTO Resource Centres.

Mentoring under Construction | SALTO

Mentoring under Construction Community | Facebook