Guest Blogger: Liz Roesel, Marketing Manager, Horizon Software International and Cameron Executive Network Mentor
I’ve been told my approach to mentoring with the Cameron Executive Network has been drastically different than that of typical mentors. Now, this is not to assume that my method will be a good fit for every mentor or mentee, and I continue to learn and grow as a mentor. But, I hope in sharing my experience, potential mentors will see that the program allows for flexibility, and it’s possible to creatively maximize our mentorship reach.
When I joined CEN in 2016, it was explained that most mentors, especially those new to the program, accept one or two mentees to start. I thought, if all of my mentees had concentrations in the same area (in my case, Marketing) why couldn’t I mentor in groups? At my first CEN Mixer, I asked potential mentees what they wanted to get out of the program. Most said they wanted help with interviewing, their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and the like. A few expressed interest in seeing marketing outside of their textbooks – what a career in marketing looks like, and the tools they would likely use if they pursue a career in marketing. I was paired with five students that liked the new concept of mentorship in a group setting, and we were off!
My overall mentoring approach hasn’t changed since joining CEN. Each semester, my mentees fill out a survey with their expected availability to meet. Of course, we know that schedules can change, but this is mainly to work around class schedules and their work schedules, if those are consistent. Originally, the survey was an Excel spreadsheet, but I’ve since upgraded to a free Survey Monkey account, which makes it much easier to analyze the group’s availability. With that information, I schedule two to three meeting times each month that fit the group’s schedules. Students attend the meeting that best fits their schedule, and here’s what I believe is most important – they are all aware, and encouraged, to schedule a one-on-one meeting with me anytime. The mentorship will not be successful if there isn’t open communication, and my mentees know that they are not restricted to only the group meetings. Even though I travel quite a bit for work, I will take calls from the road too. I once had a two hour phone conversation with a mentee… it made the drive through Virginia fly by!
Meeting topics are fluid and depend on the need of the group. With a new batch of mentees, the topics will be more generic: cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, etc. Once I’ve worked with students for a while, we get more in depth, especially with marketing students, with topics including: Google Analytics, email marketing, content marketing, and podcasting. And as the students near graduation, the topics naturally turn to guidance on their job search and the interview process. Logistically, we meet at a conference room or a coffee shop. I do not host group meetings during the summer, and at the beginning of each semester, I take the group out to dinner.
What makes mentoring in a group setting manageable and rewarding? The time commitment isn’t a significant factor, because obviously, you are meeting with multiple students at once, but also the fact that overall, most of the students share the same concerns and needs. They are all navigating the same waters, preparing to start their careers, and the best part is that they learn from each other’s experiences in these group meetings. It’s so rewarding when, for example, a student shares with the group that she is preparing for an interview for her dream job. She shares what she did to land the interview, and my advice (from preparation to follow up) is heard by not just her, but the entire group.
I’ve learned so much in my first two years of mentoring, but what has been the most surprising is how little my mentees actually need me. Yes, you read that correctly! Let me explain.
My mentees have all been very intelligent, enthusiastic and eager business students. They have the skills necessary to success in business, whether they realize it or not. That is the case with most students – they don’t realize they either already have the necessary skills, or just need some polishing and practice in other aspects, to become brilliant young professionals. They just need someone that will answer their questions without judgement and encourage them as they move out of their comfort zone. Which is why I often jokingly refer to my mentoring as “cheerleading.”
Mentoring with the Cameron School of Business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Some of the unexpected highlights include: attending the Triangle AMA High Five Conference with a mentee, and we’ll be back again this year; hiring a mentee as an intern and working a national trade show together; connecting a mentee with an internship at Mark Johnson Custom Homes, which was my first professional job post-graduation; and attending Port City Young Professional Events. I have mentees that continue to stay in touch post-graduation, and it is such a joy to continue our mentorship and friendship with them as they embark on their professional careers.
As a Wilmingtonian and a Cameron School of Business alumna, I am proud to be a part of this program.