By Kuo Pei Yu
The Advisory Mentorship Programme pairs students with working professionals in their fields of interest on a 1-1 basis. Over the course of four months, from June to September 2021, mentors give an hour each month to meet with their mentee. In its first run in 2020, the programme delivered over 2,000 hours of mentorship to 694 students with the involvement of over 562 mentors. This year, we are delighted to have more than 900 mentors, including from 16 mentorship partners, whose fields of expertise range across 48 different industries.
On 4 Jun 2021, Advisory organised an online information session for students to learn more about the Advisory Mentorship Programme as well as raise relevant questions that they might have about the programme. Four mentees from the first edition of the programme were also present to share more about their experience. Read on to find out more about the programme and how you might benefit from signing up as a mentee!
Note: For the purpose of this article, the former mentees have been anonymised.
Former Mentee 1: I joined the mentorship programme last year when I was in national service, and I am currently a first year student in university. Although I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the legal industry, I decided to sign up for the mentorship programme last year because I didn’t have anyone I knew who was in the industry, especially since I was a first-generation university student. I was also really fortunate to be paired with a mentor that had extensive experience across various legal industries, who was able to give me detailed insights about each of them. This allowed me to have a clearer idea of what it is like being a private or public practice lawyer. I am very grateful for this help, and we’re still in contact today.
Former Mentee 2: I am a UX/UI analyst in Singtel, where I take up a duo role in design and data analytics. I first joined the mentorship programme when I was a senior at NUS studying business analytics in the School of Computing. As a fresh graduate who was still juggling with work and internships, I wanted to seek some career advice from mentors, which is why I signed up for the mentorship programme. I saw that there were many young mentors from diverse industries, which made this a particularly relevant programme for me. Through the programme, I wanted to learn more about how to do my career planning and strike a balance between work, education and family. My assigned mentor was an entrepreneur. I enjoyed learning about the challenges he faced in his work and how it overcame them. Generally, I had a pleasant experience talking to him, because he was authentic and genuine. I am still in contact with him now.
Former Mentee 3: I am a studio manager in a Yoga studio. Last year, as the job that I was working in was deeply affected by the pandemic, I was at a loss and did not know how to proceed with my future, and hence signed up for the Advisory Mentorship Programme. Looking back, I think this programme has exceeded my expectations. Not only did I get a greater sense of purpose in life and how I want to progress in my career, I was also able to forge a very strong relationship with my mentor, who works as a consultant. I initially wanted to learn more about community building from him, as he also founded a similar organisation previously. During the sessions, the mentor gave me some goal-building homework along the way and helped me learn more about myself through it too. Generally, it has been a very fruitful experience for me so far.
Former Mentee 4: I am currently a student completing my Higher Nitec in Accounting. I was initially very nervous about joining the programme as I was afraid that I am not qualified enough to be mentored, especially given my education background. I am glad I signed up. After the programme, I followed my mentor’s advice and took several concrete actions to further explore my career interests. For instance, while I am studying accounting, I also have a keen interest in law and wanted to learn more about the legal industry. Moreover, there were also times that I doubted my decision to study accounting as I felt that it was not suitable for me. Nonetheless, through the mentorship, I began to realise that while accounting may not be related to law, it did offer me some insights on the business industry and law. It has also taught me the importance of being analytical and careful, which are also important skill sets transferable to the legal industry as well. Upon reflection, I wished I was able to be more prepared for the session with the mentors, such as thinking of questions that I have for the mentors. Nevertheless, I still learnt a lot from my mentor and think I have achieved my learning outcomes through the programme.
Former Mentee 1: My sessions were largely driven in the direction I wanted it to be. Last year, we only had three sessions, and hence I had to come for the sessions prepared and ready to ask questions. I will usually start off the session by sharing more about myself and my experiences, before the mentor jumps in to offer me his thoughts. I also try to keep the session structured but conversational and organic at the same time.
Former Mentee 2: For me, my sessions with my mentor did not have any specific structure as well. Advisory did provide us with a worksheet to guide us through the meeting. Nonetheless, every mentor is different and has their own styles, and the mentorship sessions may also differ depending on the needs of each mentee too. Specifically, for my mentor, we shared more about ourselves and our common interests in the first session. I then began working by the second session, and consulted her on tips on how I can go about interacting with my co-workers, how to connect with colleagues older than myself as well as more in-depth questions about her work as a data scientist in her company. For the third meeting, we shared more about our life updates, our reflections on this mentorship programme and ways we can continue to stay connected beyond the programme.
Moderator: Our philosophy for the mentorship programme is to make it accessible to all interested youths, regardless of their background and socioeconomic status. What we are looking for are the three pillars – research about mentors, concrete learning outcomes and your interest in the field. Experience comes in many forms – it can be a free online course that you have taken, a hobby that you have on the side or something that you have read so far. As long as you demonstrate your interest and put effort into your application, it would be considered a very strong application.
Former Mentee 1: Back then, I just completed an internship with a company who focused a lot on community building, and that sparked my interest in this field. Although I didn’t really know what sector that I wanted to go to, I was certain that I wanted to find some ways to build a community – the industry was not as important for me at that point in time. I first did a quick internet search of the word ‘community’ to find the list of community leaders available as mentors. I then realised that one of the founders of an initiative that I knew about was also a mentor in this programme. As I had a keen interest in the initiative, I really wanted to connect with the mentor. For the other two options, I picked a senior marketing manager and a professional working in the sustainability industry. While I did not have the relevant skill sets required in the industries, one common thing was that I was interested in learning more about all of them, and I hope that they can guide me to gaining better clarity about the industries. I also tried to do more thorough research about them through LinkedIn, such as looking at their activities and posts. This helped me make an informed decision about my mentors.
Former Mentee 2: Since I already had an interest in law, I was keen to find a mentor who was working in the industry. Subsequently, I realised that I might not be able to get the first choice, and did a more thorough reflection on my traits and skill sets before selecting the mentors. I also used LinkedIn as a great resource to research about my mentor and learn about what the mentor does.
Former Mentee 1: My advice is that you should just do it. I think mentorship is part and parcel of people’s journey in general. It can be transformative, and also instructive. I think a big reason that holds people back from participating in the Advisory Mentorship Programme is some uncertainty over their interests. However, I think a huge benefit of mentorship is for students to clarify their doubts about what their interests actually are. Hence, I would advise fellow students to think of the bigger picture and reflect more on what they want to possibly do in the future, or explore more of their interests. They would then be able to take a deeper step in career exploration, through this Advisory Mentorship Programme. Even if you have decided to not join the industry that your mentor is in, you’ve made a new friend and have learnt from somebody who has more life experience than you, and I think this in itself is valuable as well.
Former Mentee 2: My advice is similar to one of the other panellists. Just go for it! You have nothing to lose from joining the programme as well. There is no need to feel that you are not good enough for your mentor, especially since your mentors will probably guide you along and ask you questions that will challenge your perspectives and broaden your horizons. The conversations will also naturally flow and you do not have to worry too much about awkwardness too.
Former Mentee 3: My advice would be to be genuine in your interactions with your mentors. As someone who feels a little less able when talking to someone significantly older and more experienced than me, I was also initially worried that I might be asking ‘stupid’ questions to my mentor. However, I think being prepared to ask thoughtful questions during the session and staying genuine will be of great help. Personally, my mentor was a very good facilitator and helped to liven the atmosphere while getting me to open up more about myself, so I was very thankful for that too. Being genuine can also help to build up a rapport with your mentor and help carry on your relationship even after the programme ends.
Former Mentee 4: My greatest advice is to be yourself. You know yourself best so if there is something that you want to do, you should just go for it. I also think that it is important to reflect on our experiences and see how far we would be willing to go to pursue our passion. Our career choices ultimately still boil down to our own decisions and paths. Just like what the quote “you miss the shots that you do not take” says, I would encourage interested students to give this programme a try.
Former Mentee 1: As someone who has quite a good idea of the industry and mentors that I wanted to learn from, I think it is important to ask in-depth questions to learn more about what life is really like working as someone from the industry. However, if you are not very sure about the specific industry that you are interested in yet, I believe Advisory has a very comprehensive set of materials to guide you along the way as well, and they can be a good starting point for you to prepare for the sessions too.
Former Mentee 2: I would advise students to do more research about the mentors that you are interested in before applying for the programme.
Former Mentee 3: I think it is to do your due diligence and to understand yourself better. Give yourself some time and think about your interests and what you would like to do in the future. By knowing yourself better, you will be able to make a more informed choice on the mentors that you would like to learn from. Do thorough research, take the initiative and demonstrate to your mentor that you are willing to learn, so as to make the best of the session.
Former Mentee 4: For my mentorship programme, I was really unprepared. The meeting was slightly awkward as I did not know what to talk and ask about in the first session, which was a little wasted. Still, I benefited a lot from it. I think it is very important to prepare some questions that you would like to ask your mentor during the session, and practice proper social etiquette. As long as you respect your mentor and their time, especially since they mostly have a very packed work schedule, I am sure that you will be able to sustain a good and even long-lasting relationship with your mentor through the programme, and perhaps even beyond.