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Sat 25 January 2020
So you have started a mentor program, congrats! You matched people together and your people are now gearing up to begin meeting. This is an exciting time for your mentor program, but also a critical time. If your participants have a bad first meeting, the likelihood of a second meeting happening diminishes significantly and the likelihood the relationship succeeds diminishes greatly as well. 

If your employees go into this meeting without an agenda, here are the questions that they will be thinking about: 

What will we talk about?

Can this person even help me?

Can I help this person?

What if this is a big waste of time?

What if my mentor talks too much or doesn’t talk at all? 

Should I share and be vulnerable or only talk about the day-to-day things like the weather and sports?

Will this person care?

You could argue that this is a pessimistic view of the thoughts in one’s head before meeting and that an optimist would think oppositely and you would be correct in thinking this. But, in our experience, when most people try something new for the first time, they are more hesitant to fully embrace this new thing. This hesitancy is typically met with skepticism.

How can you significantly minimize this skepticism? Provide an agenda!

You might think “Agendas will make the relationship robotic and impersonal!” but in our experience, the opposite is true. Agendas provide a starting point for the conversation. They give people the confidence to know what will be discussed during the conversation while knowing that if they learn something interested about their mentor that they can ask for elaboration and grow the conversation in whichever direction feels most natural.

Should I prepare an agenda for every mentor meeting? At least one new agenda per month.

A first agenda is great, but without consistent guidance and structure, the relationship can begin to lack newness beyond life/career status updates. Providing a new agenda every month creates context and provides a roadmap as to where the relationship should be going. This creates freshness in the relationship and allows for you, the administrator of this mentor program, to control the flow and success of the mentor program.

Should I create the same agenda for every mentor pairing? No.

A one-size-fits-all policy around your mentor meeting agendas is not ideal. The reason for this is because not all mentor pairings share the same Work Orientation. For example, people that are job oriented get much of their workplace engagement socially. Therefore, their agendas should incorporate some form of social activity like volunteering, going out to lunch, or taking a walk outside. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from the work that they do and learning new skills. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around setting timelines with each other for learning new skills. People that are career oriented get much of their workplace engagement from high level thinking. Therefore, their agendas should be focused around discussing abstract concepts on how their work and their company has an impact on society on a larger level.

Should I be gathering feedback on my agendas after every mentor meeting? Yes.

The ideas you come up with for mentor meetings could be great or a total flop. Being ignorant to the feedback from everyone means that the loudest voices will win. The loudest voices are not necessarily representative of the entire group.

Is there an order you tend to follow for structuring mentor meeting agendas? Yes.

At Ambition In Motion, we typically follow a structure of rapport building, then collaboration exercise, then goal setting, then reviewing obstacles (perceived vs. real), then reviewing strengths and weaknesses, and then providing feedback to each other (e.g. a 360 degree review).

So…What are the 5 reasons why you NEED to provide agendas for your company’s mentor program?

1.       Removes much of the skepticism from participants
2.       Allows you to control the pace and direction of the relationship
3.       Gives you insight into the effectiveness of the program
4.       Creates opportunities for mending and iterating relationships while they are happening
5.       Provides you with a formula for success for future versions of the mentor program

Thu 23 January 2020
Most companies are interested in increasing the engagement level of their employees, improving retention, and growing the productivity levels and likelihood of collaboration of their teams and implementing mentor programs is garnering popularity as a catalyst for these outcomes.

The next steps is to think about how to best match participants in this mentor program together. This is a commonly overlooked aspect to mentor programs but has a critical impact on the success of the program.

Without a proven system for matching people together for mentorship, your mentor program is not likely to succeed.

Why is the match so important?

Mentorship is a relationship-based activity between two people. If the two people matched in a mentor relationship are not compatible, forcing the relationship to work is going to create resentment among both parties.

This would be like being put into an arranged marriage by your parents with somebody you hate but as opposed to having parents (who will always be your parents and you can’t get rid of) who put you together, you have your company…which you can leave…creating the opposite effect of what a mentor program was meant to accomplish.

Common Pitfalls

1.       Matching people based on years of experience
2.       Matching people based on status in the company
3.       Matching people based on area of expertise

These are great secondary factors for matching people together for mentorship, but if they are the sole basis for matching people, our research has indicated that these relationships have an 18% likelihood of lasting 6 months and being considered both productive and quality by both participants.

Why?

None of these factors consider who the individual is. Mentorship is a relationship-based activity. One’s years of experience, status in the company, or area of expertise say nothing about who an individual is. All it says is what they have accomplished.

If your mentor program matching methodology in only about what somebody has accomplished, your only incentive to both participants is the transactional outcome of achieving that experience, gaining that status, or learning that skill and once that outcome has happened the relationship is over…or if the outcome doesn’t happen within the expected time frame of both participants the relationship fizzle’s out because the participants didn’t get what they were looking for.

Work Orientation is critical to matching people for successful mentor relationships.

Work Orientation is how you view your work. Some people view their work as a job, while some view their work as a career, while others view their work as a calling. Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it can change throughout your life. There is also not a right or wrong Work Orientation.

When Work Orientation is aligned for matching people together for a mentoring relationship, the likelihood that the relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality goes from 18% to 72%. 

The point: what motivates people at work has a huge impact on the advice they give in a workplace mentor program and the insight they want to learn.

If you are interested in learning your Work Orientation, go to https://ambition-in-motion.com/ and complete the 1-minute Work Orientation Assessment and your report will be sent to you.

Tue 21 January 2020
Participating in mentor relationships is extremely valuable and can open up opportunities for both professional and personal growth. 

But what happens when we don’t do the things we said we would do in our previous meeting or the person we are mentoring doesn’t accomplish what he said he would do the previous meeting?

You are faced with a crossroads. If you didn’t accomplish your goal, were you too ambitious with how you would spend your time or did you drop the ball? Can you be honest with yourself to recognize where you messed up?

If the person you are mentoring didn’t accomplish his goals, why did this happen? Do you feel comfortable with applying enough pressure to show that you care but not so much that you turn the person you are mentoring off? 

This article covers some helpful tips towards building a mentor relationship that is healthy and productive.

Set expectations upfront

When setting goals in a mentoring relationship, it is extremely important that you both set expectations. If you don’t put on guardrails for tasks not getting accomplished, the relationship has a high likelihood of fizzling out because if there isn’t accountability for the goals set in the relationship, there likely isn’t much accountability for the relationship overall.

It is great to set goals that are months or years away but the problem with this is that it is difficult to assess of you or the person you are mentoring is on the right track. Ideally, once you set a longer term goal, you set goals for you to accomplish between meetings that create a path towards your end goal. 

If you don’t accomplish these tasks between your mentor meetings, it is important for you to assess what is realistic and what might be too ambitious.

Challenge with questions not statements

If your mentor or the person you are mentoring doesn’t achieve his goals, it might be tempting to be frustrated. In a mentor relationship, you are investing your energy in seeing this person succeed. If they can’t accomplish the tasks they set for themselves, it can feel depleting or frustrating.

The key to properly challenging the person you are mentoring to ask poignant questions that help them come up with solutions. Saying things like “you need to do this...” or “I can’t believe you didn’t get that done…” doesn’t help you and may turn the person you are mentoring away. 

Asking questions like “since you weren’t able to accomplish this, is there something you can do this week/month to help you get back on track?” or “do you feel like you can still accomplish your goal even though you missed your task this week?” or “if you aren’t able to achieve your goal, what will be the outcome of that?” 

Once the person you are mentoring has answered these types of questions, the number one most important question to ask is:

How can I help you?

This shows empathy and your accountability to them achieving this goal.

Reevaluate the goal for changes

You or the person you are mentoring may determine that the goal set initially is not as important as it once was and that there is a new goal that has taken precedence.

This is completely fine and normal!

The key to properly handling this situation is sharing this information with your mentor. They will support you in this transition because they care about you accomplishing your goals, not that the original goal gets accomplished.

You aren’t letting your mentor down by changing your goal but you are letting your mentor down if you don’t share this new goal with him.

As a mentor, you can ask the question “is this still the most important goal on your plate?” or put another way “what is your biggest concern with the work you are doing right now?” Sometimes it is easier to answer questions about concerns than goals and prioritize them because people are more willing to do things to avoid pain than gain pleasure.

Overall, when it comes to mentor relationships and holding people accountable, it is key to be transparent, create protocols for not accomplishing tasks on the way to a goal, and be empathetic.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 17 January 2020
Building a company culture that is engaging for people to join and work with is not a simple task. Ping pong tables, meditation rooms, free lunches, open work spaces, and open budgets for professional development are nice and have varying degrees of effectiveness, but for this post, the focus is on corporate mentor programs.

Corporate mentor programs are created to connect people on teams together for deeper relationships. When implemented properly, the results can lead to greater employee engagement, productivity, retention, and sense of pride in working for your company.

When not implemented properly, this can lead to people feeling like the mentor relationships are forced, the mentor relationships are taking time away from their typical work, and/or the mentor relationships are giving too much power the more senior participant.

There are 3 types of corporate mentor programs that have great intentions but unfortunately, more often than not, end up with results that are consistent with improperly implemented mentor programs.

Open Door Policy Mentorship

Open Door Policy Mentorship starts with companies that enact an open door policy to encourage employees to meet with each other. The goal is that when an employee would like guidance from another employee, she can feel comfortable going into the office of that other employee and ask for advice.

The reality is that most people don’t take advantage of this Open Door Policy Mentorship. Does this mean that the team isn’t interested in mentoring relationships? Possibly, but probably not (Current research indicates that employees are interested in mentoring relationships. If you are interested in finding out for yourself, you should ask your employees in a survey if they are interested).

So why don’t employees take advantage of this? Because most people don’t feel comfortable opening the door. Whether that be not knowing exactly what to talk about, fearing that what you have to ask isn’t relevant to what that person is working on right now or that you might be interrupting her day, or not feeling like the person would have a good answer for you even if you asked the question.

Ultimately, this type of mentor program becomes lip service for HR to say to prospective candidates to try and lure them to their company through the guise of a culture that cares about your development.

Mentorship from the Executive Team via an employee application process

This type of mentorship starts with the goal of spreading the culture of the company when it was small and only the Executive Team to the employees as the team has grown.

There are 3 issues with this type of mentorship. 

First, the Executive Team doesn’t have the time to mentor every employee. This leads to:

Second, not everyone gets to participate. Trimming down the list of who gets selected to participate in this mentor program is typically accomplished through some form of application process. This leads to:

Third, the Executive Team member participant getting way too much control over the relationship. Mentorship should be mutual, where both participants come with insights to share and receive. When one participant has too much dominance over the relationship, they will typically come to mentor meetings unprepared expecting the other person to drive the agenda of the entire meeting. This leads to one-sided relationships where one person feels like they are only giving and not receiving anything (and can justify showing up unprepared because of their status in the company) and the other person doesn’t know what to ask because they don’t feel like they are contributing anything.

Informal Mentorship

Informal Mentorship is similar to Open Door Policy Mentorship but this is even less structured. At least in Open Door Policy Mentorship, there is a formal policy in place. Informal Mentorship is a term typically used by people in HR that have observed that some people in the office have more than the typical “How was your weekend?” or “How’s your day going?” conversations and assume that both people are having deep, connected conversations in which both people are learning and growing from the relationship.

None of the results from Informal Mentorship can be confirmed because there is no structure to establishing who is in these relationships and how these relationships have effected anyone’s engagement level in the company. 

In conclusion, mentorship can be an extremely effective tool for engaging employees, growing company culture, and increasing productivity if done properly. But, if done improperly, it can lead to the opposite result. 

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 10 January 2020
When an employee mentions to his manager that he has received an offer from another company, how does the manager, and the company for that matter, typically respond? Often, they will respond with a counteroffer to keep that employee on the team.
Why?
Because the expense of having to pick up the pieces of where that employee left off is substantially higher than the expense of paying them more.
But…
What if we lived in a world where money wasn’t the only factor for choosing whether to stay in a job or accept a new role?
What if we discovered that there is another factor that plays a HUGE role in whether or not people stay or go? 
Most business roundtables and experts will say “you must invest in your culture!” What does that even mean? Does it mean providing lunches and ping pong tables at the office? Maybe.
Company culture is the combined makeup of how each individual employee feels about their work, whom they are doing that work with, and how attached their identity is to the work they are doing at that company. Company culture is the way that each employee feels when he/she comes to work.
You can’t force employees to feel a certain way, but you can create environments and opportunities where ideally, your people are creating deeper bonds with each other. When deeper bonds are built between people, a chemical in our brain called oxytocin fires. Oxytocin is why we feel good being around other people we like. 
When oxytocin is consistently firing when we are around our co-workers, our desire to not lose that feeling is high. Essentially, we, as humans, can form a chemical dependency to a group of people we enjoy being around in which money cannot easily persuade us to leave.
If people are using words like “we” and “us” vs. “you”, “they”, and “I”, that is a good start. But are there is 1 strong way to boost company culture.
Carve time for employees to have intentional one-on-one conversations with each other (can be about work or not about work).
Why can this activity be so powerful and impactful to the company? 
This activity creates an environment for deep relationships. When deep relationships are formed between people, oxytocin builds between those people. When people have oxytocin with their colleagues, they desire to be around those people that make them feel good.
Does it have to be one-on-one or can it be in a group?
It is best to be done one-on-one because people are less likely to be vulnerable when more people are around. Vulnerability is the key to building trust and trust is required for oxytocin to build. To make an example, think about holiday parties (or any other corporate gathering) – are people comfortable having deep, intentional conversations or are the conversations about the weather, sports, work, or any other surface-level topic? Typically, it is the latter. When people are one-on-one, they feel more comfortable opening up to each other.
Is it possible to provide a structure that leads to deep relationships?
Yes. 2 things are critical to this. First, people that are meeting with each should have aligned Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work and is a spectrum between “job”, “career”, and “calling”. When people share Work Orientation, their likelihood of getting along in these relationships is much higher because their value systems are aligned.
Second, these conversations should be focused on discussing the past, not the future. When we discuss the future, we are more inclined to embellish our goals and less likely to share our past vulnerabilities for fear that our past mistakes will not be consistent with our future goals. When we discuss the past, we can focus on the missteps we have taken and how we have learned from them. 
To build trust, you must be vulnerable first, not the other way around.
How can I measure if deep relationships are being built?
You can assess your employees’ engagement levels. If engagement rises, you will know that employees’ level of connectedness to the company culture is growing. 
How often should people be meeting?
It can be once per month for an hour each meeting. This intentional time away from work and focused on another person can create bonds that last a lifetime.
Should people switch up whom they are meeting with?
Yes. Variety in these relationships helps further intertwine employees so then they are consistently building deep relationships with multiple people. As long as the relationships formally last for at least 6 months, that should be plenty of time for people to get into rapport and continue that relationship.
In conclusion, creating environments in which colleagues are building deep relationships with each other can increase oxytocin firing in their brains when they come to work and subsequently increase the alignment of their identity with the company’s culture.
If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 3 January 2020
Not all companies have a mentor program, but if your company does have one and you haven’t participated, you might be thinking to yourself, what is the point?

You may have achieved your professional goals or you may not think that anyone in your company could help you or you may believe that a mentor may not fully understand you or you may not know what to say or what to ask once you are in a mentor relationship.

These thoughts are normal, but you would be doing yourself a major disservice by not participating. Both being a mentor and getting mentored can do a lot for you and this article sheds light on 3 benefits of mentorship.

Mentorship gives you confidence

Regardless of your title, how much you have accomplished in your career, or your stage in life, everyone can benefit and gain confidence from having a mentor. 

Mentors see something in you that you can’t see in yourself.

Vice versa, being a mentor is an empowering opportunity to see something in somebody else that they didn’t realize was possible.

When you can participate in painting a picture that is so audacious, so ambitious, so impossible sounding to yourself or the person you are mentoring, magic happens. People open their mind to what could be possible and remove the preconceived notions they had about “reality” to try something new and give themselves permission to reach higher. 

Whether you are reaching higher for yourself or helping somebody else achieve this, you begin to own the success of the person you are in a mentoring relationship. By own, you are embodying the emotional highs and lows of trying, failing, learning, and retrying. 

Having somebody there to share these experiences with is extremely gratifying.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Spending time with a mentor who encourages your success and where you can encourage somebody else’s success increases confidence immensely.

Why do this at work?

You might think that your significant other or a close friend is doing this for you. And if so, that is amazing. But you shouldn’t just have one mentor and if your only mentor is too close to you, they may not feel comfortable challenging you in new ways because they have known you for so long.

A work mentor is close enough to you that they can understand and relate to you but removed enough that they aren’t conditioned by your past and the “reality” of what you think is possible. Essentially, it is easier for somebody slightly more removed from you to help you paint a picture of reality that you currently don’t realize is possible.

Mentorship makes you happier at work

People who participate in mentor relationships build deep bonds with their mentor. There is a chemical in the human brain called oxytocin. This chemical fires and makes us happier when we are around those that we feel connected to.

We spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Yet, only a small percentage of employees have this type of bond with a colleague.

By not participating in a mentor program at work, we are depriving ourselves of potentially enriching relationships that can make us excited to go to work and happier when we come home from work.

You might think “I like having separation of work and personal life.” Participating in a mentor program and having separation between work and life are NOT mutually exclusive. You aren’t sharing your whole life with the entire office and what you share in your mentor relationship is typically confined to topics that are work-relevant while a safe space to convey your personal feelings.

Mentor relationships help build your levels of oxytocin, making you happier at work.

Mentorship makes you more productive

Having a mentor and being a mentor helps you connect with another person at work that you may not have had as much of a deep relationship with before mentorship. This mentor relationship naturally breeds collaboration and innovation.

By learning what another person is doing on a deeper level, their feelings about this work, and where they view their path going in the future, you are able to build a stronger perspective about how your work can collaborate with their work and others in the company. 

Another outcome of mentorship is increased engagement. By understanding the company and the work on a higher level and how another person operates, you are able to expand your mind of what can be accomplished and what you are working towards outside of your personal silo. This increased understanding of your company and opportunities to collaborate from your role increases work engagement and productivity.

In essence, workplace mentorship can have a huge impact on your level of satisfaction with your work. Really good workplace mentor programs will match you with a mentor whose personality and Work Orientation align with yours and provide you with agendas and structure on what to ask and how to grow the relationship in a positive way. 

The best way to reap these benefits is to start. Take the leap and participate and you will begin to see some of these outcomes.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 27 December 2019
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Often used to help people pick themselves up when their lives seem to have fallen into a rut, this quote can be helpful for giving your life some guidance BEFORE hitting the hard parts.


Consider this: according to the bureau of labor statistics, the average person changes jobs 10.8 times between ages 18 and 42. This means you are more likely than not going to work in a career that has no relevance to what you studied in college at some point. This outcome frequently results in people believing their time spent in college was wasted and that what they gained from college may not have been worth thousands of dollars. But when you consider the pros and cons of going to college, remember that life is about the journey. Did attending college add or detract from your life’s journey? 


While not necessarily a clear answer, like most things it will largely depend on your perspective. If you graduated from college with the expectation that getting a degree would guarantee you a job in a field related to that degree and that you would simply ride that job until retirement (with the level of promotions and acknowledgment you believe you deserve over that period of time), it is easy to understand why you may be unhappy with your current situation. Likewise, if you came into college with a clear understanding that the average person will have 11 or 12 jobs in their life, many of which may be completely removed from your college degree, your expectations likely met reality and you are probably more satisfied with your current situation. But while the benefits of your studies may or may not be clearly visible upon finishing school, there is one step that can be taken to ensure that your college experience does not go to waste, no matter how you look at it.


Having a mentor (or multiple mentors) in college is more correlated to career achievement, engagement, and well-being than any other way a college student could spend their time.


The Gallup Purdue Index of 2016 details the value of career services, inclusive experiences and mentorship for college graduates. It is easy to assume that a career service office would value outcomes like career achievement, engagement, and well-being, but it is clear that they are falling short of that mark with only 17% of students in this research responding that they found their career services office to be very helpful.


This research also found that if you spent your time in college developing mentor relationships, not only are you more likely to be employed but more importantly you are more likely to be engaged in your work and think more highly about your college experience.


What is most interesting about this information is that across the board, students who had mentors in college are significantly more likely to thrive and achieve career success than students who did not.


Finding where you belong after college is not an easy task. Everyone at some point or another has struggled with finding where they truly feel at home. By keeping your mind open and surrounding yourself with individuals who can help you get where you want to be, you’ll find your destination soon enough. Having a positive perspective and keeping the right people by your side will ensure that you not only find your home but that the journey to get there will be unforgettable.

Fri 20 December 2019
Jon, a tall, strong, lumbering man was recently hired to cut down trees for a wood-burning energy company. On Jon’s first day, he cut down 8 trees (a pretty impressive amount). On his second day, he cut down 6 trees (still pretty good). On his third day, he cut down 5, on his fourth day 4, and by the end of the week he could only cut down 2 trees.


Jon went to his boss, Steve, and said: “I apologize but I must be getting weaker.”  


Steve replied, “When is the last time you sharpened your ax?”


Jon responded, “I haven’t had time to sharpen my ax because I have been so busy cutting down trees.”


You may be thinking to yourself, “obviously Jon needs to just sharpen his ax and he’ll be able to cut down as many trees as he did on day 1.”


But is it really that obvious? When is the last time you sharpened your ax? The ax is a metaphor for time management in this story. It is really easy to judge and know the “right answer” for how everyone else should manage their time, yet, many of us wonder why we are never able to complete our own to-do lists.


Stories are engaging and become more real to us the more they relate to our lives. So while not everyone reading this blog may be a tree cutter, you can definitely relate to the trials and tribulations of getting everything done on your to-do lists.


You might be thinking to yourself “well I already take the time to create a to-do list so I am good.”


Merely creating a to-do list is not enough to properly manage your time. If it were then getting everything on your to-do list complete wouldn’t be an issue and you wouldn’t have read this far. We know that when a to-do list is too long, it can cause us to drown and feel like we are under a never-ending pool of things to complete. We create solace with never completing our to-do list and justify never completing the list.


But what if, instead of just creating a to-do list, you instead create a story around every task on your to-do list? Just like the story about Jon the tree cutter engaged you enough to read this far, having a story around every task on your to-do list helps you stay engaged on the tasks you need to get done.


Not only do stories help you stay engaged, but they help you prioritize your tasks as well. If you create a narrative for your day or your week or your month (or even year!), you can create a path to success.


Sure, you may want that promotion (award, ribbon, raise, acknowledgment from peers and supervisors, family progress, or anything else you define success as) at the end of the year and sure, you may have thought of some milestones (i.e. tasks on your to-do list) that will help you achieve those outcomes, but what is your narrative for how all those tasks will get done? What sacrifices are you willing to take to make your story happen?


When you create a story for yourself, you create a picture for what you can realistically achieve. Since you are the only person who knows what you are truly capable of, you know that your story will be feasible since YOU wrote it!


So stop reading this article, go to your to-do list, and begin writing a story about each task. You will realize that your to-do lists turn into already-done lists quicker than you ever imagined.


And if you were curious, Jon ended up sharpening his ax by sharpening his mind and realizing that burning wood is a very unsustainable way of producing energy. Jon created a story for himself and enacted windmills all over his community and is powering his town sustainably.
Fri 13 December 2019
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).


Students:

  1. 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.


Mentors:

  1. 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.

Fri 29 November 2019
The Gallup Purdue Great Jobs, Great Lives report has shed light that mentorship is clearly vital and necessary to the development of college students. According to this report,


“Graduates who felt ‘supported’ during college (that professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and had a mentor) are nearly three times as likely to be thriving than those who didn’t feel supported.”


Students who were mentored in college also had higher levels of work engagement than students who were not mentored.


Since this report was published, many universities and departments have attempted to implement their own internal mentor program. Getting mentors, providing the proper content, matching the right students with the right mentors, and establishing a plan for the mentorship to continue is difficult in and of itself, and many schools have struggled with properly implementing it. Getting students involved with the program is one of the most important parts of a mentorship program, and it is more often the most neglected part. In interviews with multiple schools that have attempted to implement their own internal mentorship programs, nearly all of them expressed a struggle to engage students to become mentees.


This may seem somewhat odd, considering all of the benefits that students clearly receive from having a mentor, but this is what has been happening with many mentorship programs. To help understand why this is the case, here are a few reasons why student mentees don’t immediately pounce at many mentorship programs.

  1. The students have no clue that it exists

In interviews with a few hundred students at one of the largest universities in the US, we learned that the majority of students didn’t know that their school offers free health services, content on how librarians can help them and interlibrary loans, library journal subscriptions, writing centers, mental health services and international/domestic peer programs. All of these programs are extremely beneficial and available to students (and are consistently available at many large institutions and have been for years), but the students aren’t aware of their existence. Some universities have even made required projects that forced the use of these services, advertised these services on school buses, and brought guest speakers to speak about these services and students still don’t acknowledge their existence.

2. Mentorship is posed as a career development opportunity as opposed to an educational opportunity

Many mentorships blossom into job offers and work relationships. However, these further opportunities typically did not occur because students perceived that mentorship as leading into a job. They come from students genuinely enjoying the company and advice of their mentor, and wanting to continue their relationship with the mentor. Students put on a façade of professionalism when they are presented with an interview-like opportunity and feel like they have to not “look dumb” or seem like they are keeping up with everything a professional is saying so as to make themselves as hirable as possible. This is the exact opposite of what a mentorship should be. Students should have the goal of asking as many questions as one can in order to learn the most and grow as a person. Mentors seek vulnerability in a student mentee. Mentors don’t expect an 18-22 year old to know every facet of their career (that is why the student is the mentee!). Vulnerability is desirable because a student who asks questions and shows a willingness to learn is much more hirable than a student who doesn’t ask any questions.


Furthermore, if students are informed that mentorship is a career development opportunity, students that have job offers or believe they have a job lined up won’t pursue mentorships. Vice versa, it creates an environment where only students desperate for a job will want to be mentored and will act in a way referenced in the previous paragraph. This outcome is not valuable for the mentor or the student, and more often than not will leave all parties involved feeling extremely dissatisfied.

3. The fear of missing out

A student doesn’t want to be the only person doing something that everyone isn’t doing. On the contrary, students want to keep up with whatever their peers are doing. Therefore, to get a mentorship program to work at a university, it has to become popular to do. Students cannot perceive themselves as exclusive or too good to be mentored or else it won’t catch on with other students. Getting the initial students to become mentees is difficult because schools are posing students with a relatively scary proposition: go have a conversation with a stranger about your career. Many students struggle to know what they want in a career entering their senior year, let alone freshman to junior years. For a student, having a conversation with a stranger can be nerve-wracking in and of itself, combined with talking to a professional about career paths when the student himself maybe hasn’t considered career paths can be a lot.


Overall, creating a mentorship program within a university is difficult. To properly engage students in a mentorship program there needs to be a clear and proven plan to inform the students, portray mentorship as mentorship and not career development, and have a strategy for popularizing mentorship. This article hopefully can serve as a reference to help others with some of the struggles faced when attempting to grow a mentorship program.

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