By Kimberly Hardy - March 7th, 2018
In part 2 of this two-part series about mentoring, CSU-Global Alum Kimberly Hardy shares her personal experience and research related to mentoring and its importance for online students.
From personal experience as a mentor, online mentoring programs offer a sense of organization, structure, and plenty of resources to facilitate meetings and provide support to both the mentee and mentor. Within these programs, mentors and mentees can track their sessions and are paired up based on similar interests. The idea is to get conversations started and provide a blueprint for expectations and goals in the relationship. After the initial meeting, these sessions become more informal and less structured but remain focused on mutual interests and goals.
Virtual mentoring is convenient since you have the ability to communicate seven days a week, any time day or night. Also, there is a high degree of privacy and relative anonymity using this method because you don’t always meet your mentor in person. Individuals may be more apt to share sensitive or personal information in a chat room rather than with someone standing next to them.
As someone who has been on the ground floor of a developing mentor program, I can truly say that having a third-party service as a support system and intermediary is a huge benefit mentors and mentees. It helps with accountability and tracking progress. However, the mentoring relationship is what you make of it.
According to the Harvard Business Review, a micro-mentor, whom as mentee would meet with for a short term project, may be your best asset since it increases your chances of getting access to the best mentor. Also, since suitable mentors are in short supply and have limited time schedules, its important to be sensitive to time commitments.
Partnering up with a professor or alumni for a short term project is an excellent way to gain access to a great mentor while respecting time constraints. In doing so, short term projects may give you access to a multitude of mentors. Alternatively, long term mentoring relationships require a significant time and emotional investment. Typically, these types of relationships can be found in formal and informal programs offered by the university or in the workplace.
University programs offer a added bonus, since mentoring by faculty has been shown to be a top predictor for leadership efficacy, social change values, and socially responsible leadership. The International Society for Performance Improvement notes to keep in mind that not all mentoring relationships are the same. Virtual teams provide an opportunity for each member to offer his or her strengths to others, which enables everyone to contribute and grow. In the end, any mentoring relationship is an opportunity to build relationships with leaders within and outside of your field who can offer further opportunities for development and give guidance that can shape your career trajectory and success.