The educational landscape is changing. Universities are adding more courses and degree fields to help prepare students for the perpetually changing professional world.
Purdue and Gallup recently collaborated on a report titled "Great Jobs, Great Lives" and found that "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."
Having professors that care and professors that made students excited about learning are things that can be monitored by universities internally. Having a mentor, on the other hand, is something that occurs outside of the classroom.
What is mentorship?
Mentorship is the relationship between a pupil and a professional in which the mentee gains knowledge, while the mentor gains the opportunity to pay it forward and give back some of his/her knowledge to someone who will appreciate it.
Why is it important?
Mentorship is vitally important to the development of college students because it provides them with a basis for building a realistic expectation for their professional careers.
Mentorship is important to mentors because it provides them with an opportunity to teach, detail their experiences, and talk about themselves. Dale Carnegie said it best "Talk to someone about themselves and they'll listen for hours."
How can it be implemented in universities?
Mentorship absolutely can be implemented in the college setting. In order to properly implement a mentor system in a university, there are some key pieces of information that need to be kept in mind:
1. Alumni love the idea of being mentors. When interviewed, a university alumni association informed me that they were able to get over 9,000 alumni to be mentors.
2. Assuming that all students are prepared to say they want a mentor is a misconception. In the same alumni association with over 9,000 alumni mentors, they were only able to facilitate 100 mentor/mentee connections over a 5 year period.
3. Just matching a student with any mentor that has the same or similar career as the path the student aspires does not guarantee a successful relationship. There is much more to a successful mentor relationship beyond just matching students' career ambitions with mentors' experience.
4. Students cannot think of mentorship as a job interview. If they do then the relationship cannot thrive because students are not their true, authentic selves when they believe there is an incentive.
We proved this last point while working with a university's business school. We had them take our 360 degree assessment in which students ranked themselves and their peers on soft skill characteristics like listening skills, communication skills, leadership skills, etc. When the students were told that the report was for feedback purposes only, they ranked their peers much lower on the skills. Yet, when the students were told that their report of their peers (and their peers' reports of them) would affect their grades, students ranked their peers much higher on the skills.
Keeping this information in mind when establishing a mentor program at your university is vitally important to achieving your program's goals.
Therefore, mentorship can be successfully implemented in the university setting if:
A. The mentors are kept engaged.
B. The students involve themselves with getting mentors and understand how to build those relationships.
C. A system is in place to fully understand both the mentors and the students and connect them according to the latest research from experts on the subject.
D. Students are provided with resources to teach them that a mentorship is not a job interview and that they should be themselves when meeting with their mentors.
Mentorship is beginning to permeate through the university setting as it has been successfully implemented in many companies through internal mentorship (i.e. senior leaders connecting with junior associates). Mentorship in college will not only help individual students learn from mentors, but more importantly help lead society towards careers they are passionate about.
Will your university be able to implement mentorship successfully?
Garrett Mintz is the founder of Ambition In Motion (AIM) and mentorresource.com. AIM is a program for college students who want to reach beyond typical expectations and pursue fulfilling careers. He helps college students understand what they actually want in their careers, learn pertinent information about what fulfills them, and helps demonstrate how to get their "foot in the door" at companies that interest them. Garrett does this by working with schools to match students with alumni mentors through mentorresource.com. Garrett's goal is to help young professionals build a realistic and thorough perspective of their potential occupations BEFORE accepting a job as opposed to after.