Proactive Mentorship in Management Education

The art of mentorship is yet to be fully tapped into and explored by the present system of management education in India. Post-Graduate programs are the penultimate stepping stones for students entering the ever evolving corporate world. The importance of mentoring at this crucial stage has been downplayed, if not ignored, by the system at large.

After 15+ years of formal education, students are thrown into the workspace to explore and fight their way towards a successful career. At this juncture it becomes imperative to have some sort of guidance from experienced seniors.

Management programs today focus on most aspects of holistic development for students, but proactive mentor ship seems to be missing.

What is proactive mentor ship?

I consider proactive mentor ship as the style of mentoring, wherein the mentor constantly tries to engage the men-tees into communicating their goals and desires, to subsequently provide meaningful advice aimed at helping the men-tee.

The keywords being: Constantly, Engage and Communication.

As someone who has not yet completed 1 full year of working, I believe I’m still a student at heart. With this knowledge I understand that students as a group are quite a tricky bunch of people. The general method of imparting knowledge (Read: Lecture based classroom learning culminating in a 3 hour exam) has sensitized students and each and every student develops a unique coping mechanism. Some may use cellphones during the class, some might doodle out their elaborate fantasies and some just wait to enjoy their class-nap. The point I’m trying to make is that students can’t be force-fed information. It’s futile to assume that when students reach the level of post graduation they will suddenly change their behavior.

Keeping this in mind, it is of utmost importance for the mentor to constantly try and guide the students. Most mentors have an understanding that students will approach them during crisis’ (Placements, choosing specialization, Internship, etc) and they will help them then. However, this approach is not fail-proof. Some students might not approach anyone just because they have not been doing it since the start.

To avoid this conundrum, a proactive mentor will constantly speak and guide the students from the start. It should be communicated to the students that the mentor is always available and can be reached through email, facebook, sms etc at any time. In an era where boundaries are irrelevant due to the social media boom, mentors must exploit this opportunity to be present for their mentees whenever required.

Another important quality of a proactive mentor is his/her ability to engage with the students. Since their schooling days, students in India are expected to respect their teachers/elders and maintain discipline in their presence. When working in a company, this behavior is translated to include the manager/boss. So, a level of apprehension will always be present with students while interacting with mentors. A proactive mentor has to understand this and constantly engage his students. He can do so with funny stories, incredible insights, personal experience and almost anything which will put the students at ease and make the mentor more approachable.

Finally, a proactive mentor has to learn to effectively communicate with his students. Unless he/she can do this, students will not be able to express their goals/desires clearly enough to enable guiding them. Effective communication is more difficult than it may sound. As most students and mentors have completely different fields of experiences’, the onus is on the mentor to understand what exactly the student is trying to communicate.

Having listed out the prerequisites of proactive mentor ship; let me now dwell on some of the benefits:

  • Students will develop a fair idea of mapping their interests/skills to industry/profile they could start their career with.
  • Students will be better prepared to deal with the corporate lifestyle and the level of commitment and accountability required.
  • Proactive mentor ship will create an environment of knowledge sharing in the campus.
  • Attrition rate of companies would come down as students are bound to take better informed decisions.

Contributed By: Abishek A Ganesh, Batch 2012, IBS Hyderabad)

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About Debapratim Purkayastha

Associate Dean at IBS Hyderabad. Award-winning and best-selling author of case studies in Management, Educator and Trainer. Over 14 years’ teaching, research and industry experience. Teaching Business Strategy at IBS Hyderabad. Consulting Editor of 'Case Folio', a refereed journal dedicated to case studies in management. Won case method awards and recognition from the Academy of Management (AOM), Association of MBAs (AMBA), The Central and Eastern European Management Development Association (CEEMAN), European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), Emerald Group Publishing, North American Case Research Association (NACRA), oikos International, The Case Centre (formerly European Case Clearing House), John Molson School of Business (University of Concordia, Canada), AESE Business School (Portugal), etc. Many cases published in global editions of textbooks. Conducted a number of case method workshops in India and abroad. Winner of the 'Outstanding Contribution to the Case Method' award from the UK-based The Case Centre and listed among the centre's top bestselling authors for the past 40 years. Follow on Twitter: @dpurkayastha

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