Increasing your likelihood of implementing a successful mentorship program at your university becomes much greater when you understand the desires of your students (mentees) and alumni (mentors). By fully understanding the wants and needs of both parties, you can create a mentorship program that works for everyone (and not just for the sake of saying you have a mentorship program).
- To learn from somebody they can see themselves in
This ties into the work in the Journal of Vocational Behaviors in which we learn that students need to be able to see themselves and relate to their mentors to fully gain the most out of that mentor. If a mentor cannot relate to the same or similar struggles that the student is facing, the student will not identify the successes of the mentor as something the student can achieve. This includes race, gender, age, GPA and any other obstacle (real or perceived) the student is facing. For example, if you are a parent, significant other, or close friend and make a suggestion to your child, partner, or friend (respectively), that suggestion will likely not be internalized by the person you are speaking to because they know you more intimately and perceive the subtle differences between you and them as not relatable. Vice versa, a total stranger could make that same suggestion you gave to your child, partner, or friend and your child, partner, or friend could implement it instantly. Why? Because what they did know about that stranger they believed related to them. For a student to engage in mentorship, they must be able to see themselves in their mentor.
2. To not be told what to do
Students are seeking to learn voluntarily, not forcibly. If a student feels forced or coerced to be a mentee, they are likely to reject or do the minimum to achieve satisfaction from the party forcing them to be a mentee. Students have similar responses to required vs. elective courses.
3. To gain career opportunities
Students need to know that the work they are doing in school and with meeting mentors is leading toward something. It is important for them to believe that the relationship is worth something, and not just simply another person they know. The biggest fear in this case, however, is that the student can solely value the job, and sometimes not form a true relationship. Students need to know that job opportunities can come from mentorship, but rarely come if their sole purpose for getting mentored is getting a job. Fortunately for the students, this ties in nicely with how the mentor often perceives the relationship, and what they want.
- To pay it forward
If you think this sounds wishy-washy or doesn’t make sense to you then you are probably not suited to be a mentor. Fortunately, there are many people that love the idea of giving time to a student and helping them grow as a person. Dale Carnegie once said,
“Talk to someone about themselves and they will talk to you for hours.”
Being a mentor provides alumni with the opportunity to be philanthropic without spending money, and helping students with a topic they are an expert in.
2. To stay “in the know” with events and activities at their alma mater
Keeping your alumni involved with your school goes beyond the competitiveness of your athletic programs. Sure alumni receive newsletters about what is going on around campus from the perspective of the administration, but alumni want to know what students think because they were students. Being a mentor allows alumni to stay involved with what is going on around campus and updated on the students’ thoughts about it.
3. To provide opportunities
There is nothing more satisfying to a mentor than knowing that he/she paved the way for a student to succeed. This goes beyond helping a student get a job. This includes providing recommendations, key insights, and job shadows. If the perspective of the mentor saves a student time, money, or energy then that mentor has done a great job. There is no greater feeling than believing you made a positive impact on somebody else’s life. For a mentor, having a student that is eager to learn (and not desperate for a job) goes a long way towards encouraging a mentor to provide opportunities to students.
With these insights into the desires of mentors and mentees, you can begin building a strategy for ensuring positive and beneficial connections.