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The many mentoring types explained

Tightrope walker above Yosemite Valley on a 150 foot highline.

Credit: Jared Alden/Getty

Revere mentoring, peer mentoring and employability mentoring explained.

Andy Morris, employability mentoring manager at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, describes himself as a professional Cupid, connecting students who are seeking careers in industry with mentors who can help them achieve their goals.

He tells Julie Gould how the employability mentors he works with in industry differ from the employer mentoring offered to researchers when they join an organization or take on a new role.

Lucia Prieto-Gordino joined a mentoring programme after becoming a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute in London in 2018.

“You unavoidably encounter situations that you have never encountered before. And your mentor is there to help you navigate those situations with their experience,” she says.

And Carol Zuegner, an associate professor of journalism at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, describes the reverse mentoring sessions held with former students to help her navigate the digital age.



Revere mentoring, peer mentoring and employability mentoring explained.

Julie Gould: 0:09

Hello, I'm Julie Gould and this is Working Scientist, a Nature Careers podcast. Welcome to our series all about mentoring.It is a cliché, I know, but everyone is unique. Everyone has different experiences and environments, and so they all have different needs at different times in their lives. And amazingly, there are different kinds of mentoring relationships to suit those different needs.

In this episode, I'm going to explore what some of the different types of mentoring are, from group support to one-on-one, where if you need a career mentor or an employment mentor, or even if you'd like to try reverse mentoring, there are lots of different types for all the different needs and people. But before we go into any of that, let's just have a quick reminder of what mentoring is.

Andy Morris 1:08

It’s shared experience. It’s people talking about what it is they they've done, and how and why and where, and where they had it all and where they lost all. It's not about being objective and being right and correct and saying “This is the answer,” and “Do this.” It's about a conversation. It's about a journey.

Julie Gould 1:22

That was the voice of Andy Morris. He's the employability mentoring manager at De Montfort University in Leicester in the UK. His role is to link the students up with people in industry who….

Andy Morris 1:32

…..are living the dream who are already doing the job, so our students can have constructive conversations with them. So essentially, I'm kind of like a professional Cupid. I'm a matchmaker. I bring these people together in these relationships, in these variety of different settings, in order to foster conversations, get dialogue going, and get students learning from the wisdom of people who have been there, done it, got the T shirt.

Julie Gould 1:55

Okay, so that's what Andy does.

But what does an employability mentor do?

Now, just for clarity, an employability mentor is not the same as an employer mentor. According to a paper published by the London Careers and Enterprise Company in 2016, employer mentoring is based on a sustained relationship between an employer, an employee, or a self employed person, and a young person who is still at school. The focus of this relationship is on personal or career development through meaningful encounters with the world of work.

So, back to Andy from De Montfort University.

He says that employability mentors help mentees to think about their employability within a certain sector. And it turns out, there are many different aspects of employability.

Andy Morris 2:42

It's your attitude, it's your awareness, it's your skills, it's your knowledge, it's your experiences, your values. It's your strengths, your interests. It's so many different things. And students having an understanding and opening their mind to what employability actually means rather than having perhaps a pigeon holed view of it by talking to someone in industry, it can open their minds as to how they can develop their own employability to be as professionally attractive as they can be to people in industry.

Julie Gould 3:07

So once you get into industry, what do mentors do there? In industry based roles many companies use a formal mentoring scheme, where, when a new person joins the company, they are paired up with somebody who's been there for a while, and who can show them the ropes, how the technology works, and where to go to get your cup of coffee.

This is called onboarding, says Joseph Didelot, a professional chemist who has worked for two very large chemical companies, as well as some smaller ones before that.

Joseph Didelot: 3:30

They are very big on putting you with one individual who is your trainer who gets you onboarded, who walks you through the process of the different testing, you know, they make sure you're up to speed on the instruments. And I mean, you go through it, step by step by step. It's very regimented. And it's very thorough. It’s extremely thorough.

Julie Gould: 4:00

The Francis Crick Institute in London in the UK also has a formal mentoring program for new starters. Lucia Prieto-Godino joined the Crick in London in 2018. At the time, she was assigned a mentor when she started as a new group leader, because there's very little official training on how to be a group leader. So the role of the mentor at the Crick….

Lucia Prieto-Gordino 4:24

….is to help us navigate that transition, because you unavoidably encounter situations that you have never encountered before. And your mentor is there to help you navigate those situations with their experience.

Julie Gould 4:38

Experience can come from anywhere, someone older or someone younger than you. Enter reverse mentoring. I mentioned this in the very first episode of this series when the Nature Awards for Mentoring in Science winner Hannah Margalit shared her enthusiasm for the process. But she's not the only one.

Carol Zeugner is an associate professor of journalism at Creighton University in the US. And by reaching out to former students, Carol uses reverse mentoring to help develop her teaching material.

By speaking to the former students of her course, she learns about the modern technologies and media that they use, and particularly the ones that are useful to them in their current roles. Things change fast. And this is a great way for Carol to keep her teaching up to date,

Carol Zuegner 5:22

The kind of skills that I need, I learned on a typewriter. And so now I teach a social media class on a phone.

I had a lot of former students who are working in social media, and I wanted to know what I needed to be teaching in my social media class. So I called the meeting, a happy hour meeting, and we all sat around and they talked about what they did and what they saw as important.

And so you know, should we use Snapchat? Do I need to teach Snapchat? What do I need to teach? How do I teach these things? The reverse mentoring was so important in helping me understand what I needed to teach and what was important and what they were doing.

Julie Gould 5:56

Joanne Kamens, the Interim Executive Director of Bentley University’s Center for Women in Business, (and also a thought leader for mentoring), is also an advocate for reverse mentoring. But really, she doesn't believe it needs a special name. It's just learning from someone who knows something that you want to know more about.

Joanne Kamens 6:13

I learned from people, it doesn't matter if they're senior to me, junior to me, younger than me, older than me. If they have a skill or a talent for asking good questions they can be a good mentor. In fact, peers, make fantastic mentors because they get you.

Sarvenaz Sarabipour 6:29

On navigating the challenges of academic environments with you. So it's a different perspective. The resources that peer mentors can create and share with each other are different or up to date, or for different set of challenges for a different time. And it could be easier to have conversations with peer mentors about the issues.

Julie Gould: 6:54

That second voice was Sarvenaz Sarabipour, a postdoc at the Institute for computational medicine at Johns Hopkins University in the US. She is also leading the Future PI Slack group, an online peer mentoring support group for people who are transitioning to a PI position.

The 4000 strong group offers support and advice to those looking and applying for faculty positions. The process can be long, stressful and opaque, says Sarvenez. So support from those going through the same ordeal as you can be comforting.

Sarvenaz Sarabipour 7:25

As soon as you ask a question there are dozens of responses. Very helpful, warm responses, encouragement that comes. I think encouragement and positivity is a very important element that sustains us. And we may not always have that.

And I think that coming from your peers is great This positive affirmation that you're doing things right, and that you're on your track, you're skilled, you're eligible. And if you get rejections that doesn't reflect on you.

Julie Gould: 8:01

This form of peer mentoring could also be considered as a type of group mentoring, which compared to one-on-one mentoring happens, well, in groups.

Joanne Kamens believes that this is a more successful type of mentoring format for formally organized mentoring schemes.

Joanne Kamens 8:18

Because what happens is, it's like dating, like, if you've ever been on a blind date, or you swipe right or left, right, you know how rarely those matchups actually pan out to work.

And it's the same thing. I believe in one-on-one mentoring. I just think you need to choose each other.

So you really need to be out meeting people and having informational coffees, and not going to people and saying “Will you be my mentor?”, but going to people and saying “Hey, could we have lunch one time virtually or really? And I just have some few questions I want to ask you.” and “Hey, that lunch went well. Do you mind if we do this again?” And then a year later, that person is your mentor. When you choose each other and it's beneficial, and it's going to work out as a one on one mentoring relationship. But randomly matching people extremely rarely works.

Julie Gould: 9:02

The group structure does away with the mismatch failure that you can get with a one on one mentoring schemes.

Joanne Kamens: 9:07

The group works together to set goals, hold each other accountable, ask those hard questions, work on development. Some groups go on for years and years or some groups go for a year, you learn something, you make some relationships and you network, and then that group may not stay together forever.

Julie Gould 9:23

This leads us really nicely into the next episode of this series all about mentoring, where I'll talk to people about their mentoring relationships and how they have changed and developed throughout their careers. Thanks for listening. I'm Julie Gould

Nature Careers


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