What is mentoring?

Mentoring is an old, tested method that is used to pass on the experiential knowledge and wisdom of an experienced, older mentor to a younger, more inexperienced actor who is eager to develop. The aim is to facilitate the career management and the professional and intellectual growth of the person being mentored.

Mentoring is led by an actor, who poses questions to a mentor. The actor’s questions, topics of interest, and goals determine the contents of mentoring. Learning is done through the dialogue between the actor and the mentor, i.e. discussion that aims for mutual understanding and  learning. This involves an open, confidential interactive relationship where both the mentor and the actor learn from each other.

Not recruitment

The mentor is not an employment agent, a sponsor, a manager, a work or student counselor, an orientor, a tutor, or a therapist. The mentor’s task is to simply share his/her personal experiences and knowledge, not make decisions on the actor’s behalf or strongly guide the actor toward a particular direction. In addition, the mentor should not criticize the actor’s choices, although the mentor can encourage the actor to think about things in new ways. The actor is personally responsible for his/her learning process and how he/she makes use of what he/she has learned during mentoring later in life.

Mentoring has long been used in work life to transfer tacit knowledge and particularly to expedite learning and support the career development of managers and experts, among other purposes. Mentoring programs for students, on the other hand, have provided new perspectives toward career planning and the future. The University of Helsinki organizes group mentoring to support students as they move on to work life or further studies.

Mentoring is beneficial to both parties

Mentors may receive new ideas and thoughts from actors during the
mentoring process. Mentors can often analyze their own careers better after
mentoring and consider their own plans for the future from a new perspective.
Working as a mentor is a valuable experience that can provide mentors with genuine pleasure from being able to help someone. Simultaneously, they receive a direct connection to students and current university studies.

Mentoring can also develop the interaction and leadership skills of a mentor and teach him/her a new working method. The mentoring experience also provides provisions for knowledge management, which may be useful in work life when, for example, developing the competence of subordinates and organizing performance appraisals.

Read more about group mentoring.