Role of the mentor and good practices discussed in the interim meeting

mentorit ryhmäkuvassa zoomissa
The mentors gathered together to share good practices on Zoom.

The interim meeting of the group mentoring programme held in late February brought together mentors to share their experiences of the programme launched in November. For most mentoring groups, February and March denote the midpoint of their collaborative journey, a fitting time for sharing well-functioning practices with others.

Like the sessions in November, the interim meeting was held via Zoom, with mentors from around Finland and the world attending. Before the actual group discussions, the mentors had the chance to hear about matters related to career planning and job seeking at the University. Anna Storgårds from Career Services described the current and future support measures related to career planning at the University, as well as developments in the field.

“At Career Services, we are adopting a new theoretical framework in which career skills are analysed through five different types of capital acquired during studies. This capital relates to, among other things, networking, getting to know parties active in the field, understanding the cultural codes of different organisations and career planning. In all this, mentoring holds a key role,” Storgårds said.

Varied experiences of group dynamics and remote connections

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, remote connections have been used for all meetings. Some have adapted to this well, as scheduling has been easier. However, some mentors who had contributed to the programme earlier felt that group dynamics were not necessarily as close-knit as in face-to-face meetings.

Experiences of good practices were also shared in the discussions, with some mentors describing how their actors had assumed an active role in organising meetings. The Workbook for mentoring had also been helpful in planning meetings and allocating questions from the actors under specific themes for individual sessions.

“While the students in my group are in fairly different stages of their lives, all of them are approaching the transition to the labour market in one way or another,” one mentor commented.

Dia urasuunnittelun merkityksestä yliopistossa.
Anna Storgårds talked about the importance of career planning in her presentation at the interim meeting for mentors.

Important observations were also made on the role of the mentor in the process as a whole. Mentoring is a process based on volunteering, where the mentor can share their personal knowledge and experience.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the mentor is not expected to serve as a therapist, a supervisor of studies or an employment agent. Mentoring as a process should be reciprocal so that the mentor can, for example, listen and share their knowledge and experience. The role can vary and be shaped by the group dynamics,” someone pointed out in the meeting.

In conjunction with this term, the coordinating team of the mentoring programme intends to collect feedback, especially on the pros and cons of remote arrangements and meetings.

“This is a new situation for everyone, so it’s important to collect valuable lessons gained this year to further develop the mentoring programme for subsequent terms. Feedback and questions can of course be sent to the coordinating team any time already before the term ends,” notes Salla Wilén from Career Services.

The 10th group mentoring term will continue until May, at which time a joint wrap-up session will be held. Due to the prevailing coronavirus situation, the rest of the term will continue to be held online.


Other Career Services content and services in support of job seeking and career planning for students and recent graduates have been compiled under the Traineeships and Work and career sections on the Instructions for Students website.

Mentors and actors can reach out to the coordinating team any time during the mentoring term by writing to careerservices(at)

10 years of Group Mentoring at the University of Helsinki

Mentorointiryhmät 2017
Photo from the Group Mentoring Programme kick-off in 2017. Mentor Leena Korppoo with her group.

More than 900 hundred students, 250 alumni mentors and countless hours spent with meaningful career discussions. Group mentoring at the University of Helsinki is already a modern tradition.

The Group Mentoring Programme kicks off with a celebration year this November. It is the 10th season of the programme and 10th anniversary since its first pilot for the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry in 2010. During this time the programme has gotten a lot of recognition for enhancing the employability and work life skills of university students, for example from Sitra (article in Finnish).

In its first years the programme consisted only of a few groups but since then, it has expanded to all of the faculties at the University. The main objective has remained the same: to provide support for students in their career planning with the help of an alumni-mentor as well as with the peer-support from other students.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to join the mentoring programme was the certain kind of insecurity and lack of self-confidence in my professional skills and I can definitely say that mentoring gave me confidence with these matters”, says a students who participated in group mentoring in 2016–2017.

Mentorointiryhmiä Tiedekulmassa.
Group mentoring kick-off in 2018 in Think Corner

Background in ”mini mentoring” created by a student organisation

The University of Helsinki Group Mentoring Programme model was first developed based on the “mini-mentoring” created by the alumni council of Status, the student organization for Social Psychology.

– There was a need for new tools to support the career planning of Master’s Degree students. We had seen some forms of pair mentoring at the University, but we wanted to create something that could measure up the high student amounts at the University of Helsinki in terms of mentoring, says Eric Carver who worked at the University Career Services at the time (currently at the Strategic Services for Teaching).

The first Group Mentoring Programme was piloted for the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry in 2010. After positive results, the programme was developed further in cooperation with Career Services, Alumni Relations and the VALOA –project at the University of Helsinki. The programme was unique at the time since group mentoring hadn’t been seen in Finland as such before.

In 2012 the Group Mentoring Programme was introduced at the University in cooperation with the Faculty of Social Sciences and Aleksanteri Institute. This model was already close to the current form of mentoring, in which an experienced alumni mentors a small group of students.

A group at the kick-off in 2016.
Group mentoring from 2016.

“As a mentor, I feel like I can help the students with the practical questions the university studies do not necessarily give and answer to: what are the skills valued in the working life? How do I apply for different kinds of jobs”, said Otto Mattsson 2017, having participated in the programme as a mentor several times..

From a few groups to a multidisciplinary, university-wide programme

Since the first programme in Spring 2012, group mentoring has grown to its current form step by step. In the second season, the Faculty of Educational Sciences (formerly Behavioral sciences) and the Faculty of Arts (FHKT-department) joined the programme. Nowadays Career Services and the HelsinkiAlumni-network coordinate the programme.

– Every year our goal is to gather our mentors with the objective that there are appealing groups for students in as many of our faculties as possible. What this means is that we seek mentors from various sectors of working life and with different study backgrounds, Career Councelor Salla Wilén from the Career Services and Liason Manager Marja Peltomäki from alumni relations explain.

Multidisciplinary also gives mentoring its own special characteristics, since the group formation is not only based on the field of study. A group might consist of e.g. students of arts, biology and environmental studies as well as students of science.

– Multidisciplinary was introduced in 2016 and the feedback has been positive every year. In working life study, backgrounds are mixed either way so it is natural to acknowledge this also in mentoring, the coordination team of the programme comments.

Mentoring gives you the opportunity to reflect on your career and life choices all the way from your studies. In that respect mentoring is rewarding for the mentor as well, commented Päivi Vuorinen in 2016 in her second year as a mentor.

Development steps with internationalization, workbook for mentoring and mentoring videos

Internationality has been an essential part of the programme since 2014, when English and Swedish speaking groups were introduced to the programme. At the time this addition was in line with the internationalization strategy of the university. In 2019, the programme participated in the International talents accelerating growth –project and as a result, the amount of English speaking groups was increased.

– In this season we have 8 English speaking groups. There are both Finnish and international students in these groups which is great for their mutual networking, says Career Counselor Anna Storgårds who works in the project.

The training of mentors and actors for the mentoring process has been a part of the programme from the beginning. The first mentoring guide book was released already in 2012. The current Workbook for Mentoring (2017) was created in cooperation between Career Services, HR Development of Occupational and Wellbeing unit and Tevere Oy and it has received a lot of positive feedback.

– We hand out the Workbook for everyone at the beginning of the process but it is also available free of charge online. Our groups use the Workbook actively but we’ve also received recognition and reference requests from other organisations who want to use is in their own mentoring programmes, Career Services staff comments.

In addition to the Workbook, mentors and actors also receive guide videos created by Tevere Oy, in which they are instructed the basic of a mentoring process.

“The group was excellent. At first I thought mentoring would work best as a pair, but I think I was wrong – a group provided five times the joy! I heard more experiences and received peer support”, comments a student who participated in the programme in 2013-2014.

Mentoring supports career planning online as well

Career Services is currently making a theoretical change to the graduate capital model in terms of career planning. In this model, the student’s expertise is seen as a whole formed by different capitals: human, social, cultural, psychological and identity capital. Group mentoring supports all of these capitals.

– The capital model is a holistic view of resources connected to yourself, your operational environments and the skills you have within your career and employability. They are what formulates what we call expertise, explains Wilén.

The 10-year anniversary season begins in exceptional circumstances as the COVID-situation has moved the programme completely online. However, this also has a positive impact: this season the programme has variety of mentors participating not only from the Helsinki-capital region, but also from around Finland and the globe. There are 37 mentors and 139 actors participating in the programme, which is the highest number since beginning of the programme

– There is a high demand for mentoring at the moment. The online version of the mentoring programme will certainly bring us new learning experiences with technical solutions but also in how the group forming process works out in distance. We are looking forward to this season, says the coordination team of the Group Mentoring Programme.

Ryhmämentoroinnin kick-off Zoomissa 2020
The kick-off for the 10th season was organised on Zoom this year.

Student, apply for group mentoring 2020–2021 now!

The group mentoring 2020–2021 starts in November and it is the 10th anniversary of the programme. Students can apply by the 11ht of October 2020. The groups will be filled in order of registration, so act fast!

In group mentoring you as a student will get the opportunity to discuss different career paths and their strengths related to job hunting. The group brings added value, as students receive the support not only of their mentors, but also peers in the same situation.

After the previous season of the group mentoring programme nearly 100 % of the mentors and actors recommended taking part in the mentoring process!

I came to understand my strengths better and got many new ideas for searching for a job and developing my professional skills, says one of the actors who participated in programme in season 2020–21.


The application time for students is 28th of September – 11th of October 2020. The groups will be filled in order of registration and you need to hand in an assignment with the application.

The programme is being organized for the 10th time and the following events are for all participants:

  • Question hours for mentors and actors in Zoom 18.11.2020 (16–17 pm for actors)
  • The group mentoring kick-off on 25.11.2020 at 17.00–19.00
  • Group meetings (5– 6 times)
  • The group mentoring closing in May 2021

The programme offers a choice of 40 mentors (8 English speaking), who are University of Helsinki alumni representing different fields in society. The background of studying at the University of Helsinki joins them all all. You may read their descriptions on the programmes website here.

Make use of this opportunity and sign up!

Read comments and experiences from actors and mentors last year on this blog post.

The programme is organised by UH Career services together with Helsinki Alumni -network.

Group mentoring is back – sign up as a mentor (we’ve extended the application period)!


The group mentoring program 2020–2021 will start again in November, and we are now looking for mentors for students.

This is a jubilee year: this is the 10th year of group mentoring in HU! You now have a great opportunity to help students towards graduation and working life.

Group mentoring means sharing your own skills and life experience with a small group of students at different stages of study. 2–4 students are selected for the group. Language of the groups can be Finnish, Swedish or English. Students of the University of Helsinki need support from alumni of their own fields. You now have the opportunity to provide this support in the students’ path towards graduation and working life!

Applying for the 2020-2021 Group Mentoring Programme

The group mentoring programme of 2021–2021 will be kicked off with an initial meeting  on November 25th 2020. A final meeting will be organized in May 2021.

The joint events for this season of the mentoring programme are organised remotely. You can participate in remote events through Zoom. To participate, you need a computer, smartphone or tablet. Between the initial and final meeting the mentoring groups will meet approximately once a month.

Sign up for the programme on this page!

The last day to apply is 20th of Sebtember (NOTE! We’ve extended the application period)

We will contact all mentor applicants at the end of September.

More information: and Marja Peltomäki, (marja.peltomaki(at)

Group mentoring programme ended remotely

Ryhmäkuva päätöstilaisuudesta

The latest group mentoring programme ended on 18 May when the participants met to reflect on the past six months. As can be expected during this exceptional spring, the participants shared their experiences via a remote Zoom call. Vice-Rector Sari Lindblom also joined the call to virtually present the mentors and actors with certificates of participation.

Ryhmäkuva päätöstilaisuudesta
The mentors and actors greeted each other via Zoom at the closing event.

Mentoring gave confidence in the future and practical tips for job hunting

A total of 105 actors from various faculties participated in the group mentoring programme, launched in late November. During the wrap-up session, which utilised the Flinga platform, the participants praised the programme for giving them confidence in the future.

  • I feel more confident now and believe that even if I don’t have everything under control, things will eventually sort themselves out regarding my career.
  • Belief in my skills and the future.
  • Peace of mind about building my career: easy does it!

Many participants said that mentoring had clarified their thoughts about not only their career, but also their studies.

  • I came to understand my strengths better and got many new ideas for searching for a job and developing my professional skills.
  • Confidence, CV and job application tips, an updated LinkedIn page, information on the working culture of employers I am interested in, and flexibility.
  • Although the programme gave me a lot, it wasn’t what I was looking for.
  • I now approach career planning more systematically and with better tools.

The participants in the annual mentoring programme have usually also acquired practical skills, such as how to write a CV, and shared tips for job hunting. Some of this year’s groups had also discussed these topics, but others had engaged in a broader discussion of the future and themes relating to career planning.

The actors took to Flinga to describe what they were going to do after the programme ended.

  • My goal is to find a meaningful job.
  • I will continue my studies with more confidence and begin to make plans to apply for a trainee position while working on my bachelor’s thesis.

Praise for the actors’ active efforts and benefit for the mentors, too

The 28 mentors participating in the latest programme included both veterans and first-timers representing a variety of sectors, such as corporate leadership, teaching, law, marketing, communication and pharmacy. As the programme drew to a close, the mentors had encouraging words for the actors.

  • Thank you for being present as yourselves and contributing to a process that has enabled us to learn so much from each other!
  • Great discussions, brilliant actors! Be bold, believe in yourself and don’t shy away from challenges!
Sari Lindblom
Vice-Rector Sari Lindblom joined the call to virtually present diplomas of participation to the mentoring programme.

For the mentors, the opportunity to share experiences was one of the highlights of the programme. They also said that they themselves had learned a lot.

  • I probably gained as much as you in terms of reflection on my career.
  • It was great working with you! I not only gained new perspectives, but also acquired concrete skills.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the groups met remotely as of March. Many of the participants commended the remote meetings in their final feedback and said that the new situation had taught them new approaches they can use in the job market.

  • Thank you to my active team of actors! You put in a lot of effort to develop yourselves and were not afraid to start using the equipment required for remote work. You turned the exceptional circumstances to your benefit. Working with you was rewarding.

Kuva ryhmätyöstä.

Programme to be further developed – mentors can apply as of September and actors as of October

Participants in group mentoring are always asked for their feedback, which is used annually to develop the programme. Accordingly, the next programme will be developed, for example, so that the parallel use of Finnish, English and Swedish will function more smoothly. The possibility of organising separate orientation meetings for actors and mentors before the joint kick-off will also be explored. Further information will be provided in the autumn.

When group mentoring continues next autumn, it will be the 10th programme at the University of Helsinki. Prospective mentors can apply for the programme as of August–September. The aim is to find mentors that represent all faculties and sectors of society. Information on the application process will be provided through the University’s alumni channels and on this site.

Students can submit their applications later in the autumn, after information on the application process has been published in the group mentoring blog and Career Services’ communication channels. Information on arrangements for remote mentoring, if any, will be provided when the application process begins.

Career Services and HelsinkiAlumni would like to thank all the alumni/mentors and student/actors for contributing to the success of the latest programme and wish them a lovely summer!

Further information on group mentoring:

Alumni: HelsinkiAlumni, marja.peltomaki(at)
Students: Career Services, careerservices(at)

Text and pictures: Miika Mertanen

Sharing experiences and reflecting on responsibilities at an intermediate meeting for mentors

Ryhmät välitapaamisessa
The mentors gathered at Think Corner.

An intermediate meeting for mentors marked the midpoint of the 2019–2020 group mentoring programme.

At the end of February, mentors met at Think Corner to discuss their experiences of the first group meetings and to share good practices.

The meeting began with a talk by Leena Itkonen, a career counsellor at Career Services, regarding the support provided by the University for students’ career planning both now and in the future. Itkonen shed light on the significance of, for example, career courses, traineeships, portfolio work and career events for students’ career planning. Group mentoring is another important tool used for this purpose.

“At Career Services, we are adopting a new theoretical framework in which career skills are analysed through five different types of capital acquired during studies. These types of capital encompass, for example, networking, getting to know various actors in the field, understanding the cultural codes of various organisations and making career plans. Mentoring can play a key role in all these areas,” Itkonen noted.

Leena Itkosen puheenvuoro.
Leena Itkonen (Career Services)  spoke at the intermediate meeting.


The overall impression of the first group meetings had been positive. The mentors praised the active and enthusiastic efforts of the actors. However, they also stated that the students interested in mentoring may be the most active in general, and the challenge is how to encourage those who are less active to take part.

Many mentors said that their role had primarily been that of leading discussions because their actors were no longer at the beginning of their education or career. This meant that the strength of group mentoring, peer support between the actors, was emphasised.

The Workbook for Mentoring, now used for the third time, had also been useful.

“The workbook has helped me plan the meetings,” one of the mentors said.

Ryhmäkuvaa lisää.

As in previous years, the practices of the mentoring meetings had varied. Some of the groups had visited the mentor’s workplace, whereas others had focused on discussing careers and job seeking. As before, the content of the meetings had depended on the goals set by each group.


Several groups had discussed the following fundamental topics: what is a career and how do you get one? How do you create networks? How should you approach job seeking?

“The actors are interested in how to get their foot on the career ladder,” said one of the mentors.

Johanna Ruhanen of Career Services reminded the mentors that they do not have sole responsibility for providing advice on job seeking.

“Students can use, for instance, the Career Services’ Job Seeking Guide and the various workshops focusing on job seeking and LinkedIn. We also try to actively communicate about these tools to students,” she said.

The meetings had also given a lot to the mentors themselves.

“I have received feedback directly from my actors on the impact of my job, which I maybe was unable to think about in the same way before,” one of the mentors commented at the meeting.

The mentors’ understanding of the practical significance of mentoring had also increased, and their participation had inspired their friends and acquaintances to get involved in similar activities.

“An important insight for me has been that mentoring is not just something you do in your own time. It also entails a responsibility for the impression you give of the job market, so you must take it seriously,” one mentor remarked.

Panorama-kuva ryhmistä.


The group mentoring programme will continue in the spring with group-specific remote meetings. The programme will conclude on 18 May with a joint closing session held online due to the coronavirus situation. New mentors will again be sought in early autumn, and students will have the opportunity to apply for the programme no later than October 2020. Stay tuned!

Text and pictures: Miika Mertanen

The group mentoring programme 2019–2020 kicked off in Minerva Plaza

The groups for the season 2019–2020 began their journey at the end of November.

The University of Helsinki’s group mentoring programme brings alumni and students together already for the ninth time. On 20 November, 28 enthusiastic groups set off on their joint mentoring journey in Minerva Plaza at Siltavuorenpenger.

The kick-off event of the ninth group mentoring programme was held in the traditional manner in late November. This time the event was arranged in Minerva Plaza, where the groups gathered to plan their six-month journey together.

In all, 107 students and 28 mentors took part in the event. Each group, consisting of two to four student actors, is mentored by one alumnus or alumna of the University of Helsinki. This year the programme is part of the International Talents Boosting the Growth of Companies –project, which is why the number of English-language groups was increased to four. One of the groups works in Swedish.


New kind of orientation for the groups

The support material provided for the mentoring groups was revised this autumn based on the feedback from previous years. As in previous years, the participants had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the Workbook for Mentoring  produced by the University of Helsinki before the kick-off. New preliminary materials for actors and mentors included mentoring-themed orientation videos produced by Tevere Oy.

“It is our aim to provide the participants with materials that are as comprehensive as possible in advance, since it is good to give these types of things time to simmer,” says Johanna Ruhanen from Career Services.

Kuva Minna-Rosa Kanniaisen esityksestä.
Minna-Rosa Kanniainen talked about the meaning of communication in her presentation at the kick-off -event.

Aside from practical tips, the programme of this year’s kick-off event was built on an expert presentation from Minna-Rosa Kanniainen (Lifedesign). In her presentation, Kanniainen, who previously worked with the group mentoring programme for many years, focused especially on the interactive perspective of group-based mentoring. She, for example, emphasised the crucial significance of listening and mutual respect in group meetings and encouraged actors to be active at all stages of the process.

As a concrete tip, Kanniainen reminded the participants about making a conscious effort to replace “no, but…” comments so easily escaping from our lips with “yes, and…” The latter will almost automatically move discussions in a positive direction.


During the kick-off event the groups, of course, had the opportunity to get to know each other and create shared guidelines for mentoring. The groups were in fact tasked with drawing up a written mentoring agreement on their expectations and goals related to the process.


The journey continues up until the summer

The groups will continue to work independently for about six months. It is recommended that the groups meet approximately once a month.

“We will organise an interim meeting for the mentors midway through the period, where they get to share their experiences from the first months of mentoring. Traditionally, the interim meeting has also been a good place to get new ideas for the activities of the groups,” says Ruhanen.


In May, all the groups will return to the starting place Minerva Plaza for a joint wrap-up session. Then they will have at least 28 unique mentoring stories to share.

The next mentoring period will be announced on this page in early autumn 2020. The mentor recruitment will begin in September.