Developing and Maintaining Effective Mentoring Relationships in the Business Leadership Program
The BLP mentorship program objective is to connect students with a business professional/leader who can inspire and guide them. The mentorship relationship can be customized to meet the particular needs of the student, but in general, the program aims to provide a role model for students to learn from an experienced professional who will advise them on career development and organizational issues.
A Manual for Mentors and Students
What do BLP mentors do?
BLP mentors help students in many ways:
- Mentors give advice and constructive feedback on students' work and behavior, as well as formal and informal instruction (on organizational politics or technical issues, for example).
- Mentors provide introductions to contacts inside their own organizations as well as outside contacts, thus helping students build a professional network.
- Mentors provide opportunities for students to enhance their professional skills.
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What are the benefits of a mentoring program?
Mentors gain tremendous satisfaction from contributing to the development of outstanding young people. They also meet potential employees and evaluate their capabilities in an informal relationship. There are opportunitites to meet other mentors and enhance one's professional network. Lastly, many mentors appreciate the occasion to indirectly "pay forward" for help and mentoring received earlier in their career.
Students gain invaluable first-hand insights from professionals who share their time and experiences with them. Students have access to companies and guest speakers and an opportunity to develop a close professional relationship with an executive in a local business, nonprofit corporation, or government agency.
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Goals sought by BLP students through their mentors
The following mentoring objectives are most often mentioned by students:
- To gain real business world exposure, connections, and insights regarding real-life business situations, concerns, and issues.
- To learn about their mentor's job, business, or industry.
- To acquire information on business functions (marketing, accounting, etc.)
- To obtain career advice.
- To apply and supplement textbook and classroom concepts.
- To develop business, social and political skills.
- To make contacts within the business community that will be potentially useful in selecting internships or possible employment.
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Mentoring program expectations
In coordination with their mentors, students will complete a mentorship contract at the start of each semester detailing their learning goals and the tasks or activites they plan to accomplish during the semester. Appendix 1 provides suggestions on what students and mentors can focus on at different stages of the students' college career. These are just suggestions, and mentors and students can engage in other activities as they see fit.
What Mentors Can Reasonably Expect from Students
Mentors can expect BLP students to:
- Meet with the mentor as often as schedules permit. The minimum to keep the relationship productive is once a month during the academic year, but groups can meet more often than that.
- Be considerate of the mentor's time. Return phone calls or e-mail messages promptly. Be on time. Attend all scheduled meetings. Come to each meeting with a prepared agenda.
- Suggest topics to be discussed at mentor meetings.
- Keep commitments made to the mentor.
- Make suggestions for companies they would like to visit.
- Keep confidences between the two of them.
- Work out any minor concerns about the relationship.
What Students Can Reasonably Expect From Mentors
At the same time, it is reasonable for the student to expect the mentor to:
- Attend regular montly meetings (in person or through electronic means)
- Provide sound advice on business and career-related concerns.
- Follow through on commitments.
- Keep confidences.
- Help resolve any conflicts that may arise.
- Be honest yet caring and diplomatic in feedback provided.
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What the program expects of both mentors and students
- Hold at least six group meetings per school year (September-December, and February-May). The average meeting time should be 1-2 hours.
- Alert the BLP Director immediately if it appears that the group is having problems (e.g., holding meetings, establishing goals and agendas, maintaining productive relationships, etc.).
The mentor and students should expect the BLP Director/Supporting faculty members to:
- Be available to them by phone (253.879.3390), in person, or, respond promptly to e-mail.
- Be a sounding board on the mentoring program and mentor-student relationships.
- Help resolve problems or conflicts.
- Reassign students to a different mentor if appropriate.
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Appendix 1 - Suggested Activities and Discussion Topics
During Sophomore Year
- Develop/critique student resumes
- Explore entry-level positions available in a particular field of business (including shadowing opportunities or informational interviews with colleagues within the mentor's organization/network).
- Shadow the mentor for a day.
- Discuss internships: How to search for and identify internship opportunities, preparing for interviews, getting the most out of an internship.
- Learn about the mentor's industry (products/services, customer base, etc.) through conversations and visits to the mentor's company.
- Discuss study abroad options and how to leverage a study abroad experience.
During Junior Year
- Potential topics to discuss:organizational politics, effective delegation, dealing with gender and other diversity issues, 'do's and 'don't's of behavior as an employee, Cultural differences between U.S. and international business persons, or between doing business in the U.S. vs. doing business abroad.
- Setting up mock interviews.
- Developing a plan for marketing oneself (i.e., going beyond resume building).
- Developing a professional network: practical advice on how to approach contacts, following up using LinkedIn, etc.
- Securing an internship: Searching and indentifying internship opportunities, preparing for interviews, getting the most our of an intership.
During Senior Year
- Potential topics to discuss:managing ethics in the corporation, entrepreneurship: the realities of starting and running your own business, differing work environments and managerial styles; the importance of organizational values/cultures, negotiating conditions of a job offer, graduate school.
- Provide guidance and support during the job search process.
- Help students evaluate 'job' options/offers.
At any time
- Attend a professional event with your mentor (trade show, conference, roundtable, etc.).
- Review and discuss a bestselling business book or relevant article/reading.
- Discuss cases, projects, theses, and other class assignments.
- Arrange field visits to companies of interest tot the stdent through the mentor's professional network.
- Arrange shadowing opportunities and informational interviews to learn about different career paths.
Other suggested activities
- Hold a combined meeting with another mentor group.
- Exchange meetings with another mentor team.
- Visits to mentors' clients, ad agencies, accounting firms, attorneys, vendors, etc.
- Meet on a social level (e.g., have lunch, dinner, meet for coffee, attend a sports event, etc.).