Reflections: Meet your Mentor Pilot

By Meltem Halaceli, Project Leader, Meet your Mentor

On April 15th, the online reflection meeting of the Autumn edition 2020 of Meet your Mentor took place. 45 participants were present: 24 students from FEB, FGW and FMG and 21 mentors who work for Dutch ministries, local governments, (international) companies and other organisations. The presentation and moderation was done by the project leader.

The program consisted of an extensive reflection on three topics: diversity and inclusion in the Dutch labor market; the experience of the online preparation module and the personal stories in which participants shared their developments with an emphasis on achieved success and challenges.   

Participants reflected on the mentioned topics in smaller groups in breakout rooms and shared their experiences and new insights with the rest and the topics were concluded with a poll. A key strength of the program is the reciprocity in skillset development: mentees learn valuable and practical skills for the labor market, and mentors develop cross-cultural international coaching skills. During the event, several mentors and mentees spoke about their experiences and shared illustrative quotes around the values of the experience.

Our guest speaker was Imane Chentouf, Mentoring Program Coordinator at ECHO. She spoke informatively and motivated the importance of mentoring programs in higher education: “Mentoring is extremely important as a tool on the labor market to be successful in finding a suitable job at an academic level. Making a strong start on the basis of your previous education is essential for a positive outcome of your career.”

“Module as a tool for an efficient approach”
A good illustration of how a couple participate in the program are managing director Antoinette and her mentee, a Masterstudent International Business, from the FEB. Antoinette used the Meet your Mentor online module to create an efficient approach to mentoring sessions with the mentee. The online module helped her to divide the process into three relevant phases and to draft corresponding mentoring questions. The first phase consisted of discovering who her mentee is, what kind of world she lives in, where she comes from, what her influence is on how she lives and so on. In the next phase, the couple discussed more specifically the learning goals that the mentee wants to achieve and in the third phase they discussed practical matters and reaching objectives.

Dealing with microaggressions
Specific situations emerged in this process where the mentee experienced microaggressions during application procedures at her dream companies. She found it difficult how to deal with those interactions. The mentor empowered her mentee by reflecting on these experiences and then formulating three different thoughtful answers. The most important empowerment that she advised was to always respond from strength and with positivity. Antoinette herself learned from this that questions posed out of curiosity can come across to young professionals from underrepresented groups as if they are pushed back into a disadvantaged position. The mentee has now found a suitable job, although outside of her intended dream company, but at a company where categorizing questions have never been asked. The most important thing was that the mentee gained more self-confidence and from now on sets herself as a centrepoint by determining whether a company is right for her, instead of  “I want and need to work in those big famous companies to be successful.” Meet your Mentor taught her that “it is more important to feel good at a company, to find an organisation where you can develop your skills and learn how to respond from strength and positivity.”

Effect of online module
The second reflection topic was about the usefulness of the online preparation module. The results of the poll on this subject showed that mentees found them especially useful for formulating learning objectives (what do I want to obtain from this program?). The poll showed that it provided insight for the mentors into the possible ways in which the mentee could be supported and that the module was very useful for the design of the mentor trajectory. A student stated that he studied the module as “a religion” – meticulously and precisely – and learned a lot about the positive use of his own cultural background. He often said he had a tendency to use an alias instead of his real last name. He is very concerned about the image his last name evokes and that he will be rejected. It was very nice that he could “talk about these topics in a safe environment” with a mentor. Thanks to the program, he has realized that he can concentrate better on what he does have under control and that he can see his background as a strength. The module also rose questions for him about why it took so long for the Dutch labor market to treat diversity and inclusion as a serious theme. He finds the theme so fascinating that he has decided to devote his Master’s thesis to it.

Sharing personal stories
The last part was about sharing personal stories. For this we highlight the story of Nadia Murady, Bachelor’s student of Media studies – read an interview with her here. Murady indicates that thanks to Meet your Mentor she has succeeded in establishing herself as a freelance journalist. At the outset she did not have a clear picture of her positioning in the special world of journalism. Her mentor, journalist Mina Etemad has made a very positive contribution to her positioning in which her Afghan cultural background is formulated as an added value. Murady indicates that she has improved her pitching skills, a crucial skill in journalism to get articles published. The mentor also used her network to support Nadia in finding a suitable summer internship.

Gaining confidence
An MBA Finance student also said that he has undergone a major change thanks to this program and his mentor Bart Goense (manager at a major beer brewery company). At the outset, he felt very much that he would not succeed in finding a job because of his surname. He “threw away” his previous resume and looked at what he can do and what kind of personality he has. He has learned to brand himself with his great talent for the Finance profession and his Moroccan background as important advantages under the guidance of the mentor. Meet your mentor does not aim to guarantee a job, but with a new positioning, CV and strong motivation letter, he has managed to find a job within this process, not at his intended company, but at an organisation where he has more the sense of belonging.

“The great need”
Read here the special interview in FOLIA with Dağlar Taşçı, Urban Studies student, who, thanks to her mentor Laure Michon Beatrijs, researcher at the City of Amsterdam, has become more self-confident and has been able to formulate a vision for her future. Dağlar explained her experience convincingly during the program: “I have experienced the mentoring program as super pleasant and I only realized more and more the great need for it among students. I mainly worked on broadening self-knowledge. I was so lost in my search in the beginning. I have another year to study so I am not applying yet but I didn’t know where to start. I was very stressed about my resume and work experiences. My mentor immediately made the translation to my competences. During the sessions we also discussed vacancies and motivation letters, how you can make that more concrete. I also discussed this during my interview with FOLIA why it is so important to be able to talk about this in a mentoring program with someone you may not have in your immediate environment. I am absolutely satisfied with the program.”

Next edition of Meet your Mentor
Meet your Mentor continues on May 20th with the launch at the Faculty of Law, for this program Dutch third-year students and Dutch Master’s students with an ethnic minority background and/or firstgeneration students registered at the Faculty of Law can register via this form. The program will be offered next academic year (2021-2022) at once at the FEB, FMG, FdR and FGw.

Are you an experienced professional in Law practice and do you want to mentor a student on the 20th of May? Sign up here: Registration form mentor – Meet Your Mentor

Would you like to know more about the program first? Read here how Meet your Mentor works: Mentoring program Meet Your Mentor – University of Amsterdam (uva.nl)

Also take a look at the platform: Home – Meet Your Mentor

For questions reach out to Project Leader, Meltem Halaceli via meetyourmentor@uva.nl

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