A Guide to Mentoring Students

The following guide informs and advises federal public service departments and agencies about mentoring students. It may be used as is, or adapted to best reflect the operational realities of the organization.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a one-to-one relationship based on encouragement, constructive comments, openness, mutual trust, respect, and a willingness to learn and share. It exists between a more experienced employee (sometimes, but not necessarily, a supervisor) and a less experienced employee (e.g. a student).

What do mentors do?

The mentor is a model, a motivator and a counsellor to the student. The mentor's responsibilities include:

  • helping the student set long-term career goals and short-term learning objectives;
  • helping the student understand the organizational culture;
  • recommending and/or creating learning opportunities;
  • transferring knowledge in areas such as communication, critical thinking, responsibility, flexibility, and teamwork;
  • pointing out strengths and areas for development;
  • answering any questions;
  • providing guidance on personal matters such as apartment hunting for out-of-town students; and
  • being available to support the student in an employment search after their studies are completed.

What makes a good mentor?

Mentors, while often very different in personality or management style, have several characteristics in common. A good mentor:

  • is an established employee;
  • understands the organization and its culture;
  • understands the aims of the student employment programs in the federal public service;
  • is available and willing to spend time with the student, giving appropriate guidance and feedback;
  • enjoys helping others;
  • is open-minded;
  • is flexible, empathetic, and encouraging;
  • has very good communications skills; and
  • stimulates the student's thinking and reflection.

How does mentoring benefit the mentor?

The opportunity to:

  • develop a relationship with a student;
  • contribute to a student's development;
  • develop leadership skills;
  • reflect upon one's own career;
  • share experience and knowledge; and
  • discover new ways of thinking.

How does mentoring benefit the student?

  • increases personal knowledge and organizational awareness;
  • enhances understanding of one's role in the organization;
  • develops an environment that supports constructive criticism;
  • gives wisdom, advice, help and encouragement;
  • helps to establish markers;
  • provides an effective learning tool;
  • provides networking opportunities; and
  • stimulates thinking about potential future employment options.

How does mentoring benefit the department or agency?

  • enhances service delivery because its staff is better informed and more skilled;
  • stimulates the workplace, making it more effective;
  • favours better communication and sharing of values;
  • provides networking opportunities;
  • provides positive supporters who can promote mentoring to other employees/students; and
  • identifies a pool of qualified potential candidates to meet future recruitment needs.

Mentoring resources

Many federal departments and agencies have developed their own mentoring programs. To find more information, contact the Human Resources Branch or Division in your department or agency.

Sample mentoring agreement

Attached is a sample mentoring agreement. Student and mentor pairs are encouraged to draw up a mentoring agreement to help clarify their respective roles and expectations. The agreement, while not binding, sets the framework of the relationship. It should be drawn up during the first week of the assignment and reviewed halfway through the term.

Appendix - Sample Mentoring Agreement

We are entering voluntarily into a mutually-beneficial mentoring relationship. This relationship is intended to be a rewarding experience during which our time together will be spent in personal and professional development activities. Features of our mentoring relationship shall include the following:

  • Duration of the mentoring program:
  • Frequency of meetings:
  • Mentoring activities:

If the mentor is not the student's supervisor, the supervisor is aware of the relationship and agrees to provide the student the time required to meet with the mentor.

  • Student's signature:
  • Date:
  • Mentor's signature:
  • Date:
  • Supervisor's signature:
  • Date:
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