Why mentoring and building relationships could be more important than ever?

By Alana MacLeod, Curriculum Development and Employer Engagement Officer
University of the Highlands and Islands

So…what is mentoring, and what are the benefits?

The term has ancient Greek origin! However, it has been adopted by the English language as the term for someone who imparts Alana MacLeodwisdom and shares knowledge to aid another’s development.  Finding ways to stay connected and supported is essential, especially in times like these when faced with uncertainty and change, from the way we study and the nature of employment, to the way we socialise and interact.

We all need champions, role models, and a supportive network to motivate us and to provide opportunities for further growth and development – these are valuable, positive, and powerful influences that can boost confidence, mental well-being and help prepare for future paths.

Why choose to join a business mentoring programme?

Iain Eisner, Careers Manager at the university, shares his view on what makes mentoring programmes so valuable to students.

From a career development perspective, one of the biggest benefits our students receive from mentoring is the sense of encouragement.  Often, we can find ourselves stuck and unsure how to move forward. This can often be a confidence issue.

Having a mentor can help to advise on options to remove barriers, providing personalised support, encouragement, advice and can offer a different perspective. All of this makes confident decision making a lot easier and less daunting.

The benefits gained can be wide-ranging for students (and business mentors) that take part in mentoring arrangements and programmes, including:

  • access to in-depth information on trends, developments, and visibility of current or emerging jobs in the sector you want to work in
  • advice on how to transition from university to the workplace and gain valuable CV and interview advice, hints, and tips
  • exploring how to find employment, gain work experience, or get a placement in your sector of interest
  • enhancing and developing transferrable skills, whilst building a professional network
  • increasing your confidence and self-esteem – giving you a real sense of personal development

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The first mentoring class of 2020

Despite the onset of Covid-19 challenges, students and business mentors completed this year’s three-month programme in April. Dr Iain Morrison, Dean of Students reflects on its success.

The group adapted remarkably and have emerged positively from the challenges that were presented by the introduction of lockdown half-way through the programme.

Our programme attracts employers and industry leaders from across the region from a range of very different organisations and sectors.  Everyone found it a beneficial experience, both as a mentee and a mentor, remarking on how much they had learned and that it had been a powerful development experience.

Most significantly, students had gained further developed personal confidence to recognise their skills, had structured opportunities for personal reflection and growth to become clearer about what they want from their post-degree careers, and imagine their future no matter what hurdles are presented.

What did the student mentees say?

“This experience has allowed me to see that careers are not always linear and that every experience is valuable and can add to your career. In addition, I have gained valuable guidance on how to apply my skills in the third sector, as well as obtaining key contacts within the industry.”  Natalie Dunbar, BA (Hons) Business Management with Marketing

“By being part of the programme, I now have more confidence and it made me feel comfortable and at ease in approaching people for advice.  Being able to talk to and learn from an expert in the events industry was really valuable, as I know I am being guided in the right direction, by a person who already works in the sector I want to be in.” Kelly Muffet, BA (Hons) Event Management

“Listening to my mentor discussing his career path and how he got to where he is, was hugely impactful. I also gained new knowledge and specific information about the third sector, including practical signposts and resources on how to find employment opportunities.” BA (Hons) Business Management student

Buisness mentoring programme 3

Why employers are helping to shape their skills pipeline?

Student are the workforce of the future. Our business mentors are passionate and actively get involved in the programme, giving their mentees an opportunity to openly discuss career aspirations, employability prospects and opportunities, and developments or trends in their areas of interest.

Mentors can often help you to re-imagine the roles and opportunities awaiting and help to identify work experience or employment opportunities.  They can give you insights into their career path and experiences – how they got to where they are today and how to navigate through unexpected challenges.

One of this year’s mentors, David Bryan Hub Manager for the Highlands and Islands Social Enterprise Academy is one of the many businesses that recognise the importance of mentoring.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to provide some mentoring support to the university’s students over the last few months. I have been in this sector for a few decades now, but not that long that I can’t remember how utterly ‘stuck’ I was on completing university.

“How to get that first job? Where to be looking? Who to be speaking to? What to expect?  Nothing like this was around 30 years ago. I hope I was able to share my own learning, as well as my commitment to a sector that is capable of changing the world.

How can I apply for a place on the University of the Highlands and Islands business mentoring programme?

Our students are at the heart of what we do. This means making sure that they have the tools and support needed to complete their qualifications and helping them to make plans to start, or continue, their education in the autumn, when we start the next academic year as planned.

The Business Mentoring Programme aligns with the university’s mission and the reasons for which we were established – yes, we provide international-class education and research, but we are also focused on meeting the needs of employers in our region and helping our students develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to build successful careers.

Applications for the 2020 business mentoring programme for mentors and mentees will open towards the end of the year – so keep an eye on the website and follow us (@UHICareers) more information. For help with your application, you can contact careers@uhi.ac.uk or schedule an appointment using FutureMe.

The economic situation surrounding Covid-19 and the path to recovery will create a whole new set of opportunities in many sectors and industries. As a result, the nature of employment may change, but the university partnership stands ready to play a vital role in supporting the recovery of our region.  We will continue to combine academic excellence with vocational training to equip our students with the skills that employers are looking for.

This programme is just one of the ways that we can encourage committed, passionate, and motivated students that can learn from employers, make important contacts, and find their opportunity to thrive in a 21st century workplace, with the confidence to excel.

Alana MacLeod is part of the Curriculum Development Employer Engagement team at the University of the Highlands and Islands and works closely with the employers and businesses across region.  You can find out more about studying at the university by visiting the website.

Buisness mentoring programme 4


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