Organizationally, iMentor believes that any mentee-mentor pair can develop a strong personal relationship. This is due, in part, because to the extent possible, mentee’s preferences regarding mentor qualities, experience and interests are honored in the matching process such that pairs can easily understand why they were matched. This is done to align with research-based mentoring best practices that indicates honoring mentee preference is a key factor to making strong matches.
The ultimate goal is for pairs to feel that they are a good match for one another, bond over similarities and view difference as learning opportunities. We hope that all pairs enjoy and look forward to communicating with one another online as well as meeting in-person. For some pairs, this will happen right away and Program Managers (PMs) can use that initial bond to immediately focus their efforts on deepening pairs relationship. For other pairs, the connection may not be as instantaneous and in these circumstances, PMs need to focus their initial efforts on fostering what iMentor refers to as "cultivated fit."
Cultivating Fit by Finding Common Ground
Through conversations with mentees/mentors, reading online interactions or observing pairs at events, PMs will inevitably identify pairs that are struggling to develop a strong personal relationship. Often, mentors are not naturally good at finding similarities and connecting with a young person and PMs can play a role in helping them develop that skill with thoughtful pair support.
Using the Platform Application
As PMs identify pairs in this circumstance, a great first effort is to review the mentee and mentor applications to determine areas of common interest between mentees and mentors. To do this, follow the steps below:
- Access the mentee and mentor applications by navigating to the pair profile and finding the "Application" tab on the top right-hand side of the screen. Mentee and mentor profiles look slightly different, but the tab is located in the same area on both profiles.
- To make the process of comparing applications easier, it is a common practice to open both applications simultaneously and split the screen to that the information is presented side-by-side.
- Click on the "Matching" section of the mentee and mentor applications
- Select any portion of the "Matching" section to compare between mentee and mentor. Depending on what is most important to the mentee, it may make more sense to focus on career or academic interests. However, early in the relationship, the portion titled "What are your favorite things to do in your free time?" is a great place to start.
- Begin to identify common selections from mentee and mentor in the section you are comparing. Use this information when having conversations on the phone with the mentor to make suggestions about things to discuss with their mentee via Conversations and/or at the next event. Similarly, you can share with the mentee in class that they share commonalities with their mentor (i.e., "Did you know that your mentor loves to explore new places just like you? Why don't you ask them what the coolest place they have explored is or share your own?")
There is a lot of information in the "Matching" section of the application that can be used to identify area of common ground for pairs to discuss and hopefully bond over. Be sure to follow up with the mentee/mentor after sharing advice on commonalities to see how it is going! As necessary, repeat the process to supply the pair with more things to connect over until they have developed a stronger relationship and can do so on their own.
Using Screening Match Notes
While the application is a great source of information for identifying similarities, some mentors may not fully represent themselves on the application. Another valuable source of information are the match notes left by the screening team. Screeners are trained to tease out information that will be helpful in finding a good match for a mentee, but can also be leveraged to support the cultivation of fit between mentees and mentors.
These notes can be found on the mentor profile in the "Notes" section - typically, this is the oldest note on the mentor profile, so simply scroll to the bottom of the note history and see if there is any insight from a screener on areas to leverage with regards to identifying similarities.
Using Open-Ended Mentee Application Responses
In the event that PMs cannot find similarities between the mentee and mentor via the application interests portions, another great place to look for insight into where mentors can find common ground with their mentee is the very last field on the "Matching" tab of the application. Here, mentees are asked to provide any additional information to find them a strong match. Often, these responses were used to drive the match decision and can offer a strong reminder to why the match was made in the first place in order to go back and reinforce that motivation. Alternatively, this section might include information to share with the mentor (i.e., share what the mentee was looking for in a mentor and support the mentor to attune to their mentee's desires if possible.