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Should Alumni Mentoring Be A Dating App Or An Arranged Marriage?

Should Alumni Mentoring Be A Dating App Or An Arranged Marriage?

I see a clear and positive trend of schools strengthening the career services they offer their alumni. There are more and more ideas ranging from a mentoring app to a manual matching of mentors and mentees where career services are offering more to their alumni.

This is shown by a visible effort being made by schools to improve the collaboration between their alumni relations and career services departments.  In fact, many schools now have a specific team devoted to alumni career services.  This make sense as it is an area where schools can show a tangible value proposition to their alumni.

At the heart of this trend is mentoring – both alumni mentoring and student mentoring.  Everyone in short is talking about mentoring.

Yet what is the best way to facilitate a alumni mentoring program?

Should a mentoring program be run on the traditional but resource-heavy approach of the school being the ‘middle-man’ and manually pairing off mentors and mentees?  Or is this the place where technology should take the lead and automate the mentoring matching process?

At the recent Global Leaders Summit held at Oxford University, an esteemed panel were asked this very question.  See the full discussion on this topic starting in the 31st minute below.



I think two key points emerged from the discussion.

Firstly, which type of alumni mentoring relationships are most likely to succeed?

Eva Kubu, Director of Career Services at Princeton University highlighted the need to drastically change the way we match (whether manually or on-line.)  The focus in her view needs to be about facilitating connections between alumni based upon shared interests, shared affiliations and shared intent on the purpose of connecting.  In her words,

“Most of the typical ways that matching occurs does not get to the core of what drives connections – namely shared interests and passions.”

The route to obtaining meaningful and authentic relationships is understanding the true passions of your alumni.

The second area of discussion dealt with how best to facilitate alumni mentoring, ‘high touch’ or ‘high tech’ a ‘mentoring program’ or a ‘ mentoring app ‘?

Julia Sanchez, Head of Global Alumni Relations at IE Business School, cautioned a more balanced approach.  On the one hand a ‘high-tech’ approach clearly has a contribution to make in the facilitation of alumni networks especially when your alumni diaspora are spread across the world.  Julia highlighted the geo-location technology IE use in their mentoring app to help alumni find other alumni physically near to them.  She however also cautioned that technology alone would not solve all the mentoring needs and cited specific examples of where her team had made important contributions to facilitating individual connections.

Where do you think the balance on facilitating mentoring should be, high touch or high tech?  What is the right balance?

Is there a role for schools in the matching process of mentors?  How critical is mentoring in building a career community?

If you have time, it’s also worth seeing a great Mentoring case study by Tulane University.

I would welcome your thoughts. 

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