The value of a mentor
What is the value of a mentor? The answer to this question was recently answered by Richard Branson, in an article for virgin.com, where the longtime entrepreneur quoted the American author and businessman Zig Ziglar as his inspiration regarding mentorship. Branson was inspired by Ziglar’s quote: ‘A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.’
Many influential and successful business people have written about the strength and value they have uncovered through the power of mentorship and how it has been solely because of someone elses’ belief in them that they are where they are today. They will also tell you that without someone taking the time to advise them and stop them from making the mistakes they made when they were starting out, they would have taken a lot longer getting there. Having a mentor is essentially a huge time saver. A mentor can see where you are about to go wrong and stop you before you do it. They’ve been there before and they know the pitfalls in your profession. They are a shortcut for you to that crucial experience that you don’t yet have and they can help you execute your skills at your best level, pushing you to reach your potential.
As Branson wrote:
“So please, take it from me: no matter how incredibly smart you think you are, or how brilliant, disruptive or plain off -the-wall your new concept might be, every start-up team needs at least one good mentor. Someone, somewhere, has already been through what you are convinced nobody else has ever confronted!”
So what defines a mentor? A mentor is someone who has been in your shoes, and became an expert at what they do by living and breathing their passion in life, whatever that is. But that is not all that a mentor is, if it were then anyone who was good at their job, or passionate about their career, could feasibly be a mentor. A mentor is someone who takes their invaluable skills, experience and knowledge and uses that for the benefit of others who hope to one day be as skilled, experienced and knowledgeable as their mentor has become. The altruistic and guiding nature of a mentor is what makes people like this so special, professionally invaluable and hard to find.
Experts through experience
As Hayley Pearce explains:
“An expert never falls from the sky; they become experts by working hard for years, gaining experience and living and breathing their subject. A mentor is well-placed to teach you useful, important skills that otherwise may not have crossed your mind and will help you execute the skills at your best level.”
A mentor understands your personal limitations or struggles with a subject and can work with you at your own level, starting you off from a point that you are comfortable with. Throwing yourself into learning a subject alone, no matter how good the learning tools that you have are, can be a very real challenge, and one that many people simply do not overcome by themselves. It is for these reasons that the relationship between mentor and student cannot be understated. At CareerFoundry we cherish our student-mentor relationships and as a result have seen over 70% of our students land jobs on completion of their web development and UX design courses.
“[Mentors] drive you to be better than you ever thought you could be, and they have the foresight to offer both career advice and tips for applying your new skills in real life.”
Increased academic success
In terms of academic success having a mentor is proven to increase the motivation levels of each student which in turn leads to higher completion rates of a course of study. According to Blooms 2 Sigma Problem (http://bit.ly/1ps1RKw) one-on-one tutoring has a far larger positive impact on the student’s learning than the more traditional ‘teacher and class’ dynamic. A mentor’s dual role of teacher and career advisor means that students are given a direct insight into what a career in that profession may hold and can seek advice and direction from an on-hand expert who knows and understands that particular student’s skillset. This career-advising element of the mentor’s role enables student’s to see their study within the perspective of a career, and not just as an end in itself. This is a motivating factor and gives the student a goal to aim for rather than just a certificate at the end of the course. Finally a mentor is an inspirational figure. He or she inspires his student to greatness by showing them what and who they can be if they work hard enough. This element of mentoring is crucial as it appeals directly to the inspirational side of the student’s personality.
How does mentorship work in an offline bootcamp?
Within the setting of an offline tech bootcamp students have the advantage of learning directly with their student community and with a mentor on-hand, in person. With intensive workshops, hands-on learning and access to experts and tools all in one place it could be argued that bootcamps offer more than online programmes ever could. But there are inevitable downsides. The learning may be structured, but it’s also fixed, meaning that students have to be available when and where their courses are or not learn at all. If you’re from a small town in the middle of nowhere, your access to this kind of education is going to be very limited. The intensity of these courses may appeal to some people who want to learn a lot in a very short space of time, but even for those who happen to live in the right location, if they are trying to hold down a job, or take care of a family (or both!) participation is simply not possible. And finally the cost of learning in an offline environment with mentors can be thousands of Euros per month, which many people simply cannot afford. In an ideal world studying would always be in a space with other students, surrounded by experts in the field, with the right technology available at your fingertips. However it seems that increasingly this option just isn’t accessible for most people who either don’t have the money, time or right location to commit to this kind of bootcamp. This is where online learning comes to the fore.
How does mentorship work online?
When thinking about online education it is natural to first think of video tutorials, e-books, podcasts and perhaps automated quizzes that can give the student an idea of how they’re progressing. All of these are valuable tools and can be fun ways of imparting information to large numbers of people relatively easily. However, as we have seen, without encouragement or support many students fail to meet their potential when partaking in courses - with many dropping out before completion - due to the fact that these courses rely so heavily on the individual’s own motivation without a community, teacher or class to fall back on.
However as technology has advanced so too has education technology which has led educational establishments to move more towards a personalized version of online learning that combines the mentor-driven approach of offline bootcamps with the flexibility that learning online affords. With tools such as Skype and Google Hangout for interacting with teachers and mentors and tools like InvisionApp and Google Docs which allow students to virtually collaborate directly on the same project, opportunities for students who are studying online to work directly alongside a mentor and their student community are being made possible. These collaboration and communication tools are making the experience of studying online a far less isolating and significantly more rewarding one for each individual. Not only that, but by having this support network, students are far less likely to ‘drop off’ a course, but stay motivated and accountable to the community that supports them.
What do we do at CareerFoundry?
At CareerFoundry we support students with our expert mentors and student advisors through their courses in web development and user experience design. With the flexibility of online working, students can take as long as they need to complete the courses, but with guidance, instruction and inspiration from someone who has already been in their shoes to help them along way. Students are kept on track with daily, reviewed assignments and weekly one hour Skype or Google Hangout chats with their mentor. In turn, the student advisors are there for any technical or administrative questions as and when the students need them. With this combination of flexible online and mentored learning students are acquiring the skills they need to launch exciting careers in tech. We’ll see you there.