Mentoring Insights: Attitude Counts

Group mentoring combines the support given by a mentor to students and peer support amongst participants.

The group mentoring programme of the academic year 2013-2014 attracted a record amount of students: 23 mentoring groups participated in the programme. Each alumnus mentored a group of 2-5 students. The mentoring groups met several times during the course of the programme.

‘The time spent in the mentoring group meetings is nothing compared to how much one can learn about oneself and one’s potential’ says Enni Valtonen, a student of general linguistics who participated in the programme.

Topics for Meetings Agreed Upon Together

The objectives of the meetings and what will be covered during them is agreed upon together based on the goals set by the participants. The group discussed e.g. the strengths of students of humanities in job seeking, as well as combining working life with personal life.

Says student of English philology Xing Wang, ‘As an international student I now have a better grasp of Finnish working life and recruiting processes.’ The year she participated in the group mentoring programme was also the year she started her studies at the University of Helsinki.

‘Our mentor created imaginary job advertisements for which we had to send a cover letter and a CV. After this he held job interview simulations for each of us, with the rest of the group present. We went through everyone’s CV’s and applications together, and talked about how the interviews went,’ describes Valtonen.

’We also talked about how companies work, how employees defend their rights, and how to create your own brand and network through e.g. LinkedIn,’ explains Wang.

Peer Support an Advantage of Group Mentoring

Discussion between the actors or mentees flowed naturally and produced important insights.

Mentor Raisa Asikainen believes that peer support between the group members was in many discussions more important than the mentor. Asikainen graduated from East-Asian studies in 2001.

Says Valtonen, ’During the course of the mentoring programme I realised that other students are faced with the same kind of problems. As the atmosphere was good and trusting, we were comfortable discussing these issues.’

Mentoring Helped Finding a Job

The objective of the mentoring group was to help the students understand both what they had to give, and what their own wishes were.

‘I’ve started to think about what I’d actually like to do instead of focusing on where I can apply to with my educational background. One of my greatest insights during the group mentoring programme was that what one has studied or written ones’s thesis on isn’t actually as important as what one is like as a whole: as a person,’ highlights Valtonen.
Valtonen´s hard work paid off during the mentoring programme: she found an internship.

’The encouragement from the group, the job interview simulation, and the feedback I received had a big impact on my getting the internship. Also my increased self-confidence and positive attitude showed during the interview based on which I was chosen,’ rejoices Valtonen.

’The right attitude may be even more important that a degree and work experience’, underlines Wang also.

Comparative literature graduate Otto Mattsson participated in the group mentoring programme as he wanted to help students of humanities find their place in working life.
Says Mattsson, ‘My mentoring group’s members now have a more realistic view of the job market and recruitment processes. They received practical tips on how Faculty of Arts graduates can make their skills and competence more visible.’

Timetravel to Graduation

The mentors have in common a desire to help.
‘I have myself in different circumstances wished that I had a mentor, but unfortunately it has not been possible – that is why I wanted to become a mentor myself and pay it forward’, says Asikainen.

A mentor also learns from the experience.

’I feel that at its best mentoring can be a mirror: it is a way to compare one’s presumptions, wishes and beliefs to those of others. Being able to vocalise one’s thoughts is good. Work routines do not always allow for reflection on one’s choices and the skills needed in one’s job, whereas mentoring offers the chance to do just that,’ explains Asikainen.

Says Mattsson, ’Mentoring is interaction. As a mentor I learn continuously, and challenge my own views. The only way to keep one’s brain young is to talk to young people.’

Both Asikainen and Mattsson recommend becoming a mentor to other alumni.
Concludes Asikainen, ’As a mentor one gets to timetravel to the graduation stage of one’s studies, and to the everyday life of the current students. I believe that many Arts graduates have the ability to help students about to graduate to understand the depth and scope of the skills and competence they have acquired, and the many, from a student`s perspective often surprising directions where the skills and competence linked to the humanities are needed.’