As new technologies are developed and modernized insights on mentoring are explored, the mentor-mentee relationship has become less traditional than it once was.
With digital platforms allowing more casual mentor relationships and increased opportunities to participate in formalized mentoring programs, institutions, businesses and individuals have gravitated towards having somebody to rely on for advice and support in efforts to reach personal and professional goals.
In fact, when thinking more broadly about mentoring, there are many reasons why it can be beneficial to someone at any stage in their life and career, which is why — in light of National Mentoring Month — we’re detailing how mentoring relationships can be essential to anyone from K-12 youth to a Fortune 500 senior executive.
Youth mentoring is well-represented with formalized programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), which matches school-aged children with adult volunteers across the country.
BBBS recognizes that the mentoring relationships have continuously proven to influence children’s quality of education, self-confidence and behavior. Meanwhile, researchers suggest that “it’s never too late to establish an effective mentoring relationship” since it is shown to benefit youth of all ages.
Particularly for underrepresented groups and children from low-income families, having a mentor has been shown to reduce dropout rates while increasing graduation rates and college enrollment. For example, MENTOR reports that at-risk young adults are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college if they had a mentor.
There are also focused programs that cater to special interest groups, such as Million Women Mentors which acts on the statistic that female high school students are only 15 percent likely to pursue a STEM career. By matching female high schoolers interested in a science, tech, engineering or math with professional women in the industry, Million Women Mentors aims to increase the number of young women earning undergraduate degrees in STEM fields.
For these students and other demographics that may hesitate going to college or be less likely to pursue a certain major for social or economic reasons, a mentor can provide the encouragement, guidance and expert advice they require to pursue a higher education.
Furthermore, as high school students begin to consider which colleges they want to apply to or programs they want to enroll in, a mentor, teacher or advisor often plays a critical role in the application and selection process so that students can make the best choice for themselves and find “great-fit” colleges.
In this way, a mentor who remains prominent in a child’s life throughout school can be a guide from youth to young adulthood, in day-to-day situations as simple as promoting good behavior and participating in activities, or as complex and important as persuading a high school senior to enroll in college.
The value of mentoring relationships in higher education is considered one of the most influential opportunities for students, while not having any mentoring programs has been considered the “biggest blown opportunity in the history of higher ed.” This is backed by data that shows that the kind of emotional support a mentor provides doubles the chances that graduates will be engaged in their work and thriving in their overall well-being after college.
Many institutions are beginning to target students in their transition from high school to college, such as DePauw University, Florida International University, University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University which have implemented first-year peer mentoring programs in order to improve college preparedness and graduation rates.
These schools recognize that an education or achievement gap exists in the transition to college. In addition, they seek to provide resources for first-generation students who may be struggling to navigate college while providing for family or holding a job. By matching an upper class leader with first-year students, they are afforded auxiliary support both in and out of the classroom.
Furthermore, students reaching their last years of college, applying to internships and considering different career paths often find that having an experienced mentor is vital to their professional development and post grad success.
Whether an international student is applying to internships, a senior is considering graduate school or a liberal arts major is aspiring to start their own business, having alumni participate as mentors in mock interviews, career fairs, networking events and other Career Services initiatives means that students have more opportunities to connect with someone that has been in a similar position and is willing to volunteer their time to help them pilot their own success stories.
Connecting college students with alumni mentors also ensures they will have a chance to explore their career options and receive more extensive industry knowledge so that they will be able to find the most fulfilling career and avoid job-hopping. By providing undergraduates with strong personal and professional connections, they are better able to make decisions concerning their future careers and be engaged in their work.
Entry and Mid-Level Career
When recent graduates score their first full-time job, they might not continue a relationship with their college mentor. However, as many new graduates enter the workforce, they often experience a skills gap between their education and their current position. In fact, Fast Company reported that 87 percent of recent graduates feel well prepared for their first job after earning their diplomas, but only half of hiring managers agree with them.
As mentoring becomes more popular in corporate environments, so are structured corporate mentoring programs that aim to develop new talent, expand current employees’ skill sets and enhance internal leadership. General Electric, Intel and Google are just a few of the top companies offering mentorship; however, it’s estimated that 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have some type of corporate mentoring program.
Furthermore, going from campus to the workforce invites challenges mastering office etiquette, business culture and work/life balance, which are often new hindrances for a recent graduate. Similarly, mid-level employees who are changing careers may face comparable obstacles adjusting to a new company culture, position or industry.
Reaching out to a colleague, a seasoned professional or another alumni, connecting with a mentor to navigate the workplace, or having a conversation with an industry leader to discuss large-scale trends and topics allows employees to invest in knowledge that will extend beyond their first day on the job and lead to professional advancement.
Experienced professionals can still reap the benefits of mentoring relationship despite their seniority, either by being a mentor or participating in reverse mentoring. In fact, top leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and executives find that being involved in a variation of mentoring relationships often shapes their own professional development.
For example, being a mentor to college students is beneficial to both the mentor and mentee. While students are exposed to advice that will further their career, mentors have the opportunity to form relationships with students they want to recruit for their company or business in the future.
Additionally, in an environment of constantly advancing technology and social media, the idea of reverse mentoring is a growing trend between millennials and baby boomers, with formalized programming being implemented at major companies such as Target, UnitedHealth and Microsoft. These relationships help senior level executives gain new ways of thinking and best practices for attracting young talent.
The concept of reverse mentoring turns the traditional mentor-mentee relationship on its head but stays true to the notion that there’s always something to be gained from someone who’s willing to put the time and effort into supporting someone else’s career — even if it’s just learning how to use Snapchat.
For additional insight on formalized professional development programs, register for CampusTap’s latest webinar Investing in Network & Corporate-Based Affinity Groups.
Image courtesy Big Brothers Big Sisters via Facebook