The Department of Communication and Psychology is once again organising a mentoring programme for students in the MSc IT programmes in the spring.
The following section describes the background of the mentoring programme. Subsequently, the concept of the programme is presented, and finally, some practical aspects related to the programme are described.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROGRAMME
According to graduate surveys, some of the MSc IT graduates from the Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, do not find work as fast as the AAU average. The department actively wants to do even more to remedy this, since the graduates' competencies appear to be in great demand. Some graduates subsequently point out that several business-related offers (internships and projects with companies already exist) could have better equipped them to meet labour market expectations, and that in order to get their first job, it was crucial that they had the right subject-specific and personal competencies (Aalborg University 2017a, 2017b).
This emphasises the importance of a business-related offer like the mentoring programme. With the help from the programme mentors from the business community and public organisations, the students get the opportunity to gain knowledge of the professional and personal competencies that the labour market demands. According to research, business-related mentoring programmes can contribute positively to students' perceptions of their own employability (Dollinger, Arkoudis & Marangell, 2019) as well as their self-confidence and network (Spence & Hyams-Ssekasi, 2015).
Due to the above, the overall purpose of the mentoring programme is to contribute to increased graduate employment among the department's MSc IT graduates by strengthening the students' employability during their master's programme.
The goal is for the mentor and the mentee (the student) together to create a development and learning space where the mentee brings up professional and personal challenges, which the mentor, based on his knowledge, experience and competencies, helps the mentee to explore and reflect upon. This space is where both mentor and mentee have the opportunity to pause, ask questions, reflect and develop professionally as well as personally.
THE MENTORING PROGRAMME
The department's mentoring programme is offered to students on the master's programmes: Experience Design, Information Science and Interactive Digital Media. The programme extends over 5 months in one semester: from the beginning of February to the end of June in the second master's semester (however, there is also the possibility of ongoing start-up of the mentoring programme - depending on when the mentor pairs are formed). The mentor pairs (one mentor and one mentee) are formed in the autumn prior to the programme start (the registration deadline for students is in early November). In early February, the programme begins with a mandatory information meeting for the mentees, and the first mentor meeting is intended to be held shortly thereafter. During the programme, the mentor and mentee meet a total of 4-5 times of approx. 1 hour. The meetings are to be held at the mentor's workplace or online. Furthermore, the mentee is with a mentor at work (physically or online) ½-1 day - so-called job shadowing. Halfway through the programme, both mentees and mentors are invited to a voluntary networking event where they have the opportunity to meet other participants in the programme and hear various presentations. At the end of the programme in June, the mentoring relationship will end unless both parties wish to continue on their own. Thus, mentors will spend a total of approx. one working day (excl. job shadowing) and mentees a total of approx. two working days (incl. job shadowing) during the five months programme.
THE MENTOR CORPS
The term mentor originates from the Antiquity and is used today in several contexts about an experienced person who ‘assists, supports or encourages a less experienced person or group of people’ (Dollinger et al., 2019, p. 376). A mentor is an empathic sparring partner with relevant experience, which the mentor can actively bring into play through questions and experience sharing. At the same time, the mentor meetings also give the mentor the opportunity to reflect on, communicate and gain a heightened awareness of his own knowledge, competencies and skills.
The mentors of the programme have at least 2 years' work experience, are in a job and want to voluntarily (pro bono) enter into a binding mentoring relationship. Through the mentoring programme, mentors can help others initiate their careers, gain insight into current student projects and interests, gain knowledge of the next generation of potential employees and, through the networking event, gain knowledge of what is happening at the university. The mentor relationship can also contribute to developing the mentors' coaching, communication, talent development and management competencies as well as strengthening their CSR profile.
It must be emphasised that the mentor's task and obligation are not to provide the mentee with a job, an internship or to recommend the mentee in his network, but to support the mentee's professional and personal development and to provide an insight into his own working life, work-related choices and tasks.
For the participating students (mentees), the programme provides an opportunity to gain insight into what personal and professional competencies are in demand at the labour market. This gives the mentees the opportunity to tailor their choices during their master's programme (in relation to electives, internships, project topics and thesis topics etc.) and their academic fields of interest to match demand more optimally. Through knowledge of the mentor's work and experiences, the mentee gets the opportunity to relate theories, university papers, etc. to practice, which can contribute to developing the mentee's reflection and perspective competencies. Finally, the mentee also gets the opportunity to build a professional network and gain experience in entering into a professional relationship. As a mentee in the programme, the student is obliged to participate in the mentor relationship with professionalism and is, among other thing, responsible for arranging meetings with the mentor, submitting agendas and arranging for transportation to the agreed location. Thus, it is the student and not the mentor who is the prime mover in the mentor relationship.
MATCHING OF MENTOR AND MENTEE
The programme aims to match the mentee with a mentor from a private or public organisation who carries out work tasks that the student wants to work with.
The mentoring programme is offered by the Department of Communication and Psychology, AAU. The department is responsible for matching, material and arranging a networking event. It is also at the mentors’ and mentees’ disposal throughout the mentoring process if challenges or questions arise. Prior to the first mentor meeting, the department sends out written material about mentoring, which the mentor and mentee can choose to use during their meetings.
The programme is financially supported by It-vest. For programme development, the department issues initial, mid-term and final evaluations to mentors and mentees.
Mentoring programme contact: Louise Bak Søndergaard (LBAK@hum.aau.dk).
The content of the mentor meetings are confidential, and the mentor and mentee have a mutual responsibility to ensure that their knowledge of each other is not shared without permission.
Dollinger, M., Arkoudis, S., & Marangell, S. (2019). University alumni mentoring programs: A win-win? Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 41(4), 375–389.
Spence, S., & Hyams-Ssekasi, D. (2015). Developing business students’ employability skills through working in partnership with a local business to deliver an undergraduate mentoring programme. Higher Education, Skills and Work - Based Learning; Bingley, 5(3), 299–314.
Aalborg University. (2017a). Graduate Survey 2017: Interactive Digital Media — Master’s programme AAU Aalborg. Retrieved from http://www.e-pages.dk/aalborguniversitet/584/
Aalborg University. (2017b). Graduate Survey 2017: Experience Design — Master’s programme AAU Aalborg. Retrieved from http://www.e-pages.dk/aalborguniversitet/594/