Zoom Happy Hour Out, virtual Mentorship In
As our society becomes increasingly tech-centered, more and more people seek online alternatives to traditionally in-person activities.
Whether this is organizing a Zoom graduation or starting an online business, we have swiftly adapted into a virtual environment that allows for fast connections with people across the globe. The recent spread of COVID-19 has led to new social distancing rules that prevent large groups of people from coming together, forcing us all into a mostly virtual setting. With these unique challenges came engaging solutions that serve the same purpose as their in-person alternatives and open the door to new opportunities to kickstart personal and professional growth.
Mentorship is an ancient practice that encourages experience-based learning and puts high value into building connections amongst already successful individuals and those seeking to learn from them.
The act of mentoring in itself requires constant communication between participants, which would suggest the need for face to face interaction. However, due to a higher demand for virtuality, this highly beneficial exercise has found its place on the internet.
For centuries, people have found great value in establishing connections with those around them, especially if they consider others to have some knowledge or experience contributing to their benefit. Mentoring bases itself on this idea. It ties people together through a net of contacts, transfers valuable information, and strengthens both parties' leadership skills. It sounds like a fantastic experience, and it can be — when executed correctly.
Re-Envisioning an Ancient Practice
Companies such as IBM, Caterpillar, and General Electric implemented mentoring programs in their business strategies as early as 1999. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, challenged traditional mentoring through his redesigned formula known as "Reverse Mentoring," switching young mentees and mentors' roles. It promoted a transfer of fresh ideas and ensured an ever-changing work dynamic in which the young teach the old and vice-versa. The idea of equally beneficial mentoring to both parties is relatively new, so we often assume mentors are older, much more experienced minds. But as Welch re-envisioned traditional mentorship, more unique adjustments must come into place to adapt to our environment's needs.
Amid the global pandemic, companies have redesigned their mentorship programs to adapt to the newly implemented social distancing norms. Through webinars and online consultations, younger minds can continue to grow professionally outside the office. The transition into virtuality has spiked the number of webinars available to the public. These online growth opportunities allow people of different backgrounds to interact with one another through platforms such as Zoom, establishing closer connections that could lead to mentee-mentor relationships. Participating in webinars is cost-effective and can be a great way to meet new people interested in the same subjects as you.
More Benefits, Fewer Excuses
Often, young professionals may find themselves at a crossroads when searching for the right mentor, with likely obstacles such as distance and lack of contacts. However, as we transition into a mostly online setting, these obstacles slowly vanish, allowing people to connect with others despite their location quickly. Online mentorship will allow a young, Japanese professional looking for guidance in her startup business to communicate with an already successful CEO living in Germany. The online alternative to traditional in-person mentoring removes potential travel costs, facilitates communication between mentor and mentee, and stays true to its purpose of acting as a benefactor towards young leaders' professional development.
Lee Vygotsky defined the proximal development zone as "the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers" (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). This concept can be easily linked to mentor-mentee programs, as it is based upon the same idea. Vygotsky suggested that tutors' presence could potentially boost a young person's ability to learn, exposing them to certain behaviors or skills that they could naturally pick up on. The presence of a more knowledgeable other, as Vygotsky puts it, is synonymous with the presence of a mentor.
Scientific studies have reflected the massive effect peer mentor programs can have on individuals and large corporations.
A 2018 study that compared the effectiveness of telementoring in contrast to traditional, in-person mentoring found no difference in the latter and even suggested benefits to off-site mentorship opportunities. These benefits include more than just acquired knowledge and leadership skills. Mentorship opportunities can develop a sense of community within a large group of individuals and reassure junior employees that there is value in their input. Happier employees make for better functioning companies, enabling better communication and spiking motivation levels and productivity. However, speaking in terms of personal gains, those involved in professional coaching can see reduced anxiety and a heightened sense of belonging. These two, especially amid a pandemic, may come in handy to otherwise overwhelmed professionals.
An Accessible Approach
Online mentoring is not exclusive to Zoom meetings, however. Apps such as Vyte, Inkflow Visual Notebook, and Join.me, can facilitate the transfer of documents and help mentees organize their time to sync up with their mentors. Many organizations are willing to set you up with a perfect match if you are searching for a mentee or mentor.
Many Rotarians offer mentorship to people outside Rotary Membership clubs. Rotary mentors can assist younger people interested in fields such as business, social responsibility, environmental awareness, among others.
The Mentor Method, one of the leading mentoring companies in the United States, is based on online software that connects mentees to mentors and allows more natural communication. This company promotes diversity and focuses on giving young professionals a voice to lessen the gap that often prevents them from advancing in the workplace.
Finding the right kind of guidance can be tricky, especially during times like these. But when you find yourself in the right network with the right tools, what could have been a stressful experience becomes a highly rewarding hassle-free experience. The transition into virtual mentoring can widen the range of options to select from and enthrall you into a broader spectrum of opportunities. Aside from the professional benefits of mentorship exercises, you may also find comfort and a sense of belonging in an otherwise uncertain setting.#mentor#technology#learning