Take your job seriously, and seriously have fun with it. As a mentor you get to see your mentee as a whole person. Remember, in the same way you are working toward a better writer and overall process—not a better grade on one paper—you are also in a position to encourage better thinking and more successful student strategies in general.
Do the best you can, and realize that you, like all papers and people, are a work in progress. Have patience with yourself, and especially your student; incremental progress is a beautiful thing. Keep a student mind—you will learn as much or more from mentoring as your mentee will learn from you. Even remind your student during the sessions that you are both learning from one another. We all have valuable approaches to writing and research, whether they are useful as lessons of what not to do or best practices. Learn from your student; if you are in this position you are likely interested in your own writing process—allow yourself to change and experiment with their strategies. Mentorship is a collaborative learning process that takes time, and true learning and academic development is not always linear, so know that every lesson is worth learning every time.
As a mentor you can befriend your mentees, but in a quasi-friend professional sort of way with boundaries. The long-term relationship is where the real work can be done, but it also takes trust and getting to know one another. I always take time to check in with the student and humanize them by asking how their week is going and how things are going in general. This is incredibly helpful for building a relationship and identifying challenges and strengths in a student’s academic situation. Constantly contextualize yourself and your student. This could sound like you saying, “This has worked for me in these classes,” or really listening to your student if they say, “It’s my first time writing an analytical paper,” and catering your suggestions to their existing competencies. Asking questions and identifying where your students are and where they need the most support will make your efforts far more effective.
Setting clear boundaries is crucial. For example, rescheduling one meeting time is okay, but if the student is trying to shift the schedule too much and it’s interfering with your own health and success, draw the line. Also, you are not a counselor, so get to know the resources on campus for Counseling And Psychological Service (CAPS), sexual assault and domestic violence, etc. to serve your mentee effectively if they are in need. Also, be a good employee and follow LSS’s rules—they have plenty of helpful boundaries to adhere to.
Enjoy your position and the mentorship process! Please be sure to thank yourself and your student regularly for such commitment and investment.