In group mentoring, a mentor or a mentoring pair instructs a small group of actors. The actors discuss the questions that they wish to focus on during the mentoring process. The group must collectively identify their aims and the contents of their activities and work as a team that is responsible for mentoring together, even though individual actors may also have various mentoring goals of their own. During group mentoring, actors receive peer support from each other in addition to support from the mentor.
Activities of a mentoring group
The starting point for mentoring is always provided by the goals set by actors. In group mentoring, each actor determines his/her personal goals already during the application stage. Why do I want to take part in mentoring? What do I expect from it? Mentoring groups are formed and students’ goals are used as the basis for inviting mentors to participate.
Group goals are recorded in mentoring agreement
Group mentoring begins with a joint session for all groups where both mentors and actors receive information and support for launching group activities. Group members meet each other for the first time in this joint start-up event. Each group decides on its own meeting schedule during the start-up event.
Group mentoring groups should meet roughly once a month during the program, or about four times in total.
Each mentoring group plans its activities together, which is why actors should openly discuss their personal goals with each other and their mentor at the very beginning. A shared notion of the group goals should be recorded in the mentoring agreement no later than the first group session.
The mentoring agreement contains the group’s own schedule as well as the goals, contents, and rules of group activities. The agreement ensures that the members of a group have a shared notion of what the group is trying to achieve. A group mentoring group observes confidentiality. Group discussions may not be disclosed to outsiders without mutual agreement. A mentor or an actor needs to give his/her consent before an opinion, question, or concern presented by him/her can be shared with outsiders.
Planned and documented sessions
It is important that the topics of each group session are planned in advance. This way, the mentor and the actors can orient themselves for the session, and the time together is not spent “just chatting”. The sessions can be informal, but planning guarantees that there is enough time to discuss the topics agreed upon together.
The main responsibility for planning each session lies with the actors. The themes of the first session are planned during the start-up event. At the end of each session, the actors plan the topics that will be discussed during the next session. The actors take turns to write a short summary of the group session and deliver a session memo describing the contents of the session to the other members of the group. The memo can be attached to the learning diary or career portfolio.
Tips for mentoring sessions
The members of each mentoring group decide the themes and topics that they wish to discuss in their sessions. The goals that the group has agreed on provide the contents and the form of activities. If they wish, the group members may utilize the assignments and questions of the log during their discussions. For instance, the following questions may be discussed during the group mentoring process:
1. Questions related to the actors’ career planning
What kind of work-related expectations and hopes do the actors have? What kind of tasks are they interested in? What kind of work environments do they find enjoyable? When discussing this theme, the group can utilize the comparison assignment in the log.
2. Transfer from studies to work life
What has influenced the study choices of the actors and the mentor? What makes university studies interesting? What it is like to transfer to work life? How can one utilize the things one has learned during studies at work? What kind of things should one study at work and alongside one’s work after graduation? The mentor can describe his/her own career history when this theme is under discussion. The map assignment of the log can also be done in connection with this theme. All parties can work on their own map during the session and possibly add to it later.
3. Opportunities, challenges, and development trends of work life?
How do the group members see the development of work life at the moment? What kind of job opportunities and future prospects are offered by the field that the actors are interested in? What kinds of networks should the actors try to form? What kind of job-hunting channels and techniques are effective? How can one improve personal well-being and endurance at work?
The group seeks answers together
It is a good idea to remember that nobody has the “correct answers” to all the possible questions. It is crucial that the actors openly describe issues that they are concerned about and that the actors and the mentor together consider these issues in light of their personal experiences.
The mentoring group may utilize e.g. the Career Services or career follow-up surveys in terms of their own work or organize visits to interesting workplaces. The mentor may also instruct actors to directly contact experts in the mentor’s network, if these experts may have answers to questions that the actors are interested in.
End of group mentoring
Group mentoring ends with a joint event where acknowledgements are given and where actors and mentors can assess the outcomes of the program and discuss their experiences. Actors and mentors also have the chance to provide feedback to the organizers of group mentoring and thus help develop group mentoring.
Actors may, if they wish, continue to meet among themselves and/or with the mentor even after the program ends, but the decision to continue cooperation must be made together.x There is no obligation to remain in contact. Actors keep their personal learning diaries/career portfolios and can continue to reflect on their life planning by using these tools. Learning diaries can be distributed among other group members in order to receive peer feedback and tips.