Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, will write occasional articles in 2015-2016 for Inside WFU. This is her third for the academic year. In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.
A key element of any effective mentoring relationship is the actual relationship part. And a crucial part of any effective relationship, whether it is a friendship, a romantic partnership, a work relationship, or a mentorship, is the ability to build trust between the partners.
What is the challenge in building trust? A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that this generation of students is “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.” Another study notes, “If a college degree is no longer the golden ticket it once was and the economic system can’t be trusted to provide success, millennials are primed to use their skills—whatever their source—to create opportunities for themselves.” They don’t trust the system and they don’t trust other people. So how can you build trust for an effective mentoring relationship?
There are three specific ways that you can build trust:
We all know the saying, actions speak louder than words. In keeping your word, keeping confidences, and sharing your story, you create a safe space for your student to share his hopes, goals, challenges, and concerns. And then the real work of mentoring can begin.