MENTORSHIP - A LOST RESOURCE WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION?

J. Lindström, M. Nordell

Åbo Akademi University, School of Business and Economics (FINLAND)
Mentoring is one of the oldest methods used for developing skills, learning new things and introducing new people in to social contexts or groups (e.g. Salminen & Suhonen, 2008). Mentoring, or mentorship, implies a learning or development process where a beginner or an inexperienced person gets help, support and guidance from a person with more knowledge and/or experience within a specific context. This process is often voluntary, involves a mutual understanding of the purpose and enables opportunities for mutual learning. In line with this, we define mentorship as a constructive relation between two individuals, a mentor and a mentee, where experiences and skills are exchanged with the purpose of enabling and encouraging personal development and mutual learning (see e.g. Westlander, 2008).

Mentorship in the context of higher education often refers to so-called peer mentoring, for example, older students welcoming new students into university studies, or older faculty members welcoming new researchers or teachers into the faculty. In this paper, however, we present a mentorship program where the mentors are alumnae who are currently working outside the university with varying backgrounds, experiences and jobs. The mentees are master students that are about to graduate in one to two years’ time and who wants help and support with moving on from university studies into working life.

This paper describes the program as a whole, the activities connected to the program and feedback and experiences from both mentors and mentees who have taken part of the program for the past two years. Furthermore, we discuss the future development of this particular program, as well as opportunities that the method of mentoring could offer higher education also in a wider sense. Based on the empirical findings in this paper, we believe mentorship programs could greatly help students create their own professional network already while studying, and offer them a better insight into the requirements of and the capabilities and skills sought after on the employer market. The mentorship program can also help students complete skillsets in addition to what the traditional education can offer, that is needed in the working life today. We also see this kind of activities motivating students to graduate on time, as the transition from university studies to working life is made easier.