It’s my goal to sponsor (not mentor) people that come to me for help. This means that instead of giving advice, I want to directly help by using my own social capital on their behalf. But, to do this, I have to have some basis for recommending or vouching for them.
I have two strategies for this—direct hiring and homework. If I have work they could do, I hire them to do it. Usually a small project. Their work on that will be the basis of my recommendation.
But, I don’t always have work that is easy to bring someone in on. In that case, after hearing where they are having trouble (usually in job seeking), I give them some tasks that I think would help, and ask them to get back in touch to let me know how it goes. If they do something (not necessarily what I asked, but anything that addresses the underlying reason I suggested it) and follow up, then I will feel a lot better about sponsoring them, usually by setting up informational interviews.