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What is a mentoring program?
A mentoring program is a systematic framework which provides for career counseling of individuals. Though traditionally, mentors were necessarily older, more senior people; now mentoring has become more of a two-way process where mentors and mentees can benefit mutually. For example, while the young mentees get to learn from the experience and insights of the older mentors, the (senior) mentors can benefit by getting introduced to new technologies from the techno-savvy young generation.
A B-school mentoring program is one which aims to facilitate such a setup for fresh B-school graduates. In this case, mentees are mostly freshers and have little or no experience.
How to design a good B-school mentoring program?
Outline your SMART goals
A mentoring program should have Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound goals. If goals are not set at the outset of a program, it will proceed aimlessly. A mentoring program has to be a good mix of formal and informal components. A specific goal may read something like: the program aims for every student to have a job in the industry of his/her interest within 6 months of completing the management course.
Get people who are willing and passionate about mentoring
Mentoring isn’t just about casual counseling. It involves understanding the individual needs, capabilities, constraints and career preferences of each student and using one’s own experience and knowledge to guide them. Unless people are inherently enthusiastic about helping others with their careers, they will not put their 100 per cent, and may defeat the purpose of a mentoring program.
Build a panel of mentors
Multiple minds thinking are better than one. So, getting more than one person to mentor each student helps them to analyze different perspectives about different career paths before they zero in on one. Having a judicious mix of young alumni and very senior people helps.
Encourage communication and flexibility
It is important for the program to be flexible and communication-oriented. Mentees must feel free to approach their mentors. Maintaining a level of formality is excellent, because it helps the program to work well towards the established goals. But otherwise, students must not end up choosing something that they didn’t want to start their career with, just because they could not speak out what they truly wanted. This may happen when the mentors are very senior people, and students might feel uncomfortable in approaching them.
Programs that acknowledge participants’ contributions by having a measuring mechanism give a sense of achievement to them which is extremely important for both- keeping the program alive as well as for corrective feedback. No mentoring program can be perfect from the very start, but a good program allows for changes and continuous evolution with time.
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