the graduway library

An endless resource of thought leadership, insights and best practices from the world of Career Services and Alumni Relations.

the graduway library

An endless resource of thought leadership, insights and best practices from the world of Career Services and Alumni Relations.

5 Big Student Alumni Mentoring Mistakes

student alumni mentoring

This blog will be discussing what in my opinion the 5 big student alumni mentoring mistakes that take place. 

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called The Case for Alumni Mentoring.

There, I highlighted the latest research  by Gallup-Purdue University which showed that the key to students achieving long term success after college was having a mentor during college. Some would call this ‘student alumni mentoring’.

If like me, you are convinced that all our students need a mentor, what is the best way to make this student alumni mentoring happen?


The answer lies in using a combination of both technology (alumni software or alumni networking platform) and a large group of capable and willing mentors (your army of alumni).

However, too often, I see well-intentioned schools making 5 big student and alumni mentoring mistakes. (Please forgive the Julia Roberts clip but I could not resist.) They are as follows:

  1. Not providing a scalable solution – manually pairing off students with alumni, one at a time, is not a scalable solution and requires too many resources and man-hours. The goal here is providing all students with the opportunity to have a mentor. To do this you must provide alumni software where students and alumni can pair themselves off with each other, by the thousands, and without the direct intervention of the school. The school’s role here is simply one of facilitation.
  2. Not providing sufficient value for mentors – usually it is much harder to get mentors (alumni) rather than mentees (students) to join the platform. What is the value proposition to and the motivation for mentors joining your platform? As such, to have a successful alumni mentoring or student mentoring program, you cannot have it as a stand-alone module. It will only work if it is part of a wider alumni networking platform where there are reasons for your mentors to be engaged and active such as jobs, events, photos, discussions etc. A strong alumni networking platform will lead to a strong mentoring platform within it.
  3. Micro-managing users – there is a fine balance between facilitating mentoring relationships and micro-managing those relationships. Having connected with each other via your platform, your mentors and mentees are quite capable, to organize when, how and where they will communicate going forward. Features such as appointment scheduling, in my opinion, look both clumsy and interfering.
  4. Not making the mentoring specific enough – providing willing alumni is a good start. However the mentees need to know specifically what each mentor is willing to do and unwilling to do. Mentoring means something different to each of us. The more specific and granular you can make each mentors willingness to help, the more likely the mentoring introductions will actually be successful.
  5. Not making mentoring relevant for your community – the type of mentoring offered needs to be specific and relevant to your community. For many this is purely about professional mentoring by finding a mentor in your chosen industry or profession. However for others, it can be social and even spiritual – students finding life coaches and role models that can provide valuable support through their shared gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality etc.

Mentoring is a critica offering for all education institutions.  It’s also worth seeing a Mentoring case study by Tulane University.

I hope my highlighting these 5 big student alumni mentoring mistakes can improve our chances of doing it right whether you work with students, alumni or alumni career services.

I would welcome your thoughts.

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