By Jan Murray on Thursday 15th March 2018
Results of a survey by The Internet Marketing Association's IMA Research Lab on "Empowering the Next Generation through Mentorship and Inspiration" has shown that there is a keen interest in, benefit from and need for mentoring beginning in the formative teenage years.
Responses indicated that mentoring should continue indefinitely.
Key survey findings included:
Asked about their goals for mentoring, undergraduate students most frequently, said what they were looking for was:
Networking skills: how to connect with professionals from whom they could learn.
Career insights: how to develop in the profession they may be targeting and the work environment generally.
Industry knowledge: learning about their field from someone actually working in it.
Confidence: to make the transition from the world of study to the world of work.
Communication skills: how to handle themselves as a young professional.
Graduates new to the workplace have similar needs but, as they adjust to the challenges of the workplace, are also concerned about:
Learning and development opportunities: some graduate programs are unstructured and there is no formal on the job learning process.
Gaining experience: often, graduates are not given responsibility or "real" work as they are rotated through various parts of the organisation and are unable to specialise in the area they trained for.
Being taken seriously: because of their youth and lack of experience their professional skills and leaderships abilities may be overlooked.
In addition, in the current economic environment some graduates are not guaranteed of a position when their graduate program ends. They are required to apply for positions, in competition with their peers, at a time when job opportunities may be limited. Some fear they do not have enough skills to apply.
A mentor who can develop trust and rapport becomes a confidante. They are the person with whom the student or graduate can share their aspirations and their difficulties and receive non-judgmental support, encouragement and positive feedback. This builds confidence.
Mentors help students and graduates identify skills gaps and how to address them. They can facilitate decision-making that results in goal-setting, planning and actions to move toward practical outcomes. Mentors can guide students and graduates in etiquette and communication in a business setting. They model appropriate behaviours and offer an objective perspective on work-life. This makes the transition from graduate to productive professional faster and easier.
Mentors are there when students or graduates hit obstacles or face difficulties. They can answer questions and give feedback, and provide additional information so that their mentees make informed decisions about how to handle workplace issues. However, these outcomes are not produced magically. Mentoring requires an investment of time, expertise and resources.
Mentors need to be recruited, briefed adequately on their role and skilled up to deliver on expectations. Students and graduates need to be equipped to gain the most from mentoring and a program should be in place to support and maintain mentoring relationships.
Mentoring increases the return on investment in young professionals through retention and development of talent. It builds employee engagement – shown to impact on productivity and profitability.
In addition, learning and practicing mentoring skills makes mentors better leaders, communicators and human beings. Building individual capability increases organisational capacity. That's how mentoring works.