Only Connect: EM Forster puts it better, but the theory is that the mingling of experience and talents from different eras and areas lights a valuable spark that benefits all.
With this in mind, the University of Reading’s Alumni team has created THRIVE, a scheme that gives students an opportunity to establish a twelve month mentor partnership with a professional. During this period, the student will be exploring life and career goals based on the experience and perspective of a mentor who is already “out there”. Yet it is not just the student who gains from such a partnership.
For the mentor, the benefit is not confined to seeing changes in their mentee student arising from their encouragement and support – though this is hugely rewarding of course. But, say mentors, spending time mentoring current students with their fresh ideas and creative approach has also been perspective-shifting and energising for them. Mentoring is, they enthuse, a two-way process and Alex Heavens of the University’s Alumni team is passionate about encouraging more professional alumni to give it a go.
THRIVE sees students testing ideas and getting into the workplace as they decide what sort of roles they see themselves in. Feedback from all sides suggests that support offered by a mentor during this period can significantly enhance students’ successful transitions into the graduate workplace. Another great asset for the mentees is the increased motivation and resilience they can bring to the sometimes harsh reality of the corporate workplace.
Recruitment for the next year of the successful THRIVE mentoring scheme is now open. Alumni and supporters can sign up today to help improve a current student’s career prospects and confidence after graduation. The University is also piloting a scheme to pair students working toward a postgraduate-taught degree with mentors in the Institute of Education to promote the skills gained whilst studying. Obviously, there are variations between undergraduate and postgraduate versions, but the benefits remain.
The University’s Alumni team said:
“We have seen students develop in ways which have directly related to their participation with the scheme. These include: the likelihood of them securing work experience or a placement, a greater ability to articulate their skillset as a young professional, their self-confidence and self-belief and generally a better understanding of themselves and what they would like out of a career.”
How to become a THRIVE mentor
Becoming a mentor is simple. You will need to fill out a sign up form before September and complete mentor training either online or in a face-to-face group session. Following this you will be matched with a student and should be available for an hour or two per month to work with them as a career mentor. Where possible mentors and mentees are asked to meet ‘face-to-face’ twice during the partnership to help build rapport: this can be via Skype rather than in person. For undergraduates, our scheme runs from the autumn term until the following September. For postgraduates, mentoring takes place between January and June of each academic year. Please note that we cannot guarantee all mentors will be matched immediately. Should you remain un-matched the team will suggest alternative volunteering opportunities in the interim.
To become a mentor we ask that you:
- Hold at least a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Reading or another institution
- Have at least two years of experience in your field following leaving full-time education
- Are student focused with strong listening, questioning, empathy and motivational skills
- Are willing and able to commit one hour per month to assigned mentees.
Some of the many benefits of becoming a Mentor:
In good mentoring relationships both parties will develop both professionally and personally.
Also, you can:
- Gain knowledge about University students and how your organisation can attract them
- Address any misconceptions about your occupation or organisation with students
- Fine tune your empathy, rapport building, questioning, listening, motivating, facilitating skills and patience
- Be challenged yourself and gain an alternative perspective on your work
- Get a great sense of satisfaction from helping another human being
- Take the opportunity to give something back to your University and department.
Becoming a mentor also means that you will receive exclusive invitations University events which are specifically for our alumni and graduate employers. There are plenty of opportunities for you to network with like-minded professionals throughout the year as well as opportunities to take part in further skills training to enhance your mentoring abilities.