Mentorship programs are becoming more and more popular, both in Russia and abroad. Such programs allow university graduates to become mentors and share their professional experience with students who, in turn, get an opportunity to talk to a specialist in a field they are interested in. Mentors can provide students with invaluable advice on how to apply for a Master’s program, nail your dream job interview, and start your own business.
The idea of the Mentorship project was initiated by a group of Lomonosov Moscow State University students. Keeping in mind that it is very important for university students to establish useful connections, Elena Borovaia, the founder of the Recursion fund and the Mentorship program, decided to create an environment for collaboration between students and graduates.
The Mentorship project encompasses a community of active students and professionals ready to share knowledge and experience. Sound and timely advice can make all the difference and lay a solid ground for students’ future career, say the project coordinators. Mentors aren’t paid for their work. It is entirely on a volunteer basis. When they graduate, students become new mentors and start supporting students themselves. That’s why the fund is called Recursion.
“Graduates play a very important role in a university community, as they have experience they can share with students. The idea of launching this mentorship program occurred to us last fall. We wanted our project to appeal to other universities’ students, not only MSU, so we joined a mentorship project launched by the Recursion charity fund. This project brings together graduates and students of the leading Russian universities such as Lomonosov Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, etc.,” commented Aliya Saharieva, head of ITMO University’s Alumni Relations Center.
Universities participating in this project contribute to building a community of young professionals. According to the project’s coordinators, experts in many fields, from economics to child psychology, take part in the project. Most of them are young entrepreneurs. IT specialists are among the program leaders.
“Having an experienced person to talk to can be of great help, especially when you’re a last-year student starting to browse through career opportunities. It’s not always that students can find the answers they’re seeking within the university walls, and that’s when mentors with their extensive professional experience come into play. Mentors can answer one particular question or work with students on a long-term basis. They are not only competent professionals, but also sources of useful networks, as well as psychologists who help students combat their fears and uncertainties. Besides, searching for a mentor is an exciting and interesting adventure,” said ITMO University’s Careers Center manager Evgenia Globa.
Students of all educational levels and backgrounds aged up to 25 years old have the opportunity to become a mentee for free. To choose a mentor, a student only has to go to the project’s website, indicate his or her sphere of interests and place of study, and scroll through the selected candidates. All the project-related information can also be found at ITMO University’s Careers Center.
Before embarking on a quest for choosing a mentor, students have to decide on their priorities: if a student plans on continuing their education, they can be mentored by a researcher or professor from the university of their choice. If a mentee wants to go into business, a successful entrepreneur can support them in this endeavor. According to ITMO University’s Careers Center staff, there is an established trend of students searching for jobs in other countries; in this case, they can choose a mentor who has gone through similar experience and can help them settle in another country.
“Students who contact us are primarily interested in starting their own projects; that’s why they seek mentors with relevant experience of project management. We work with students coming up with all sorts of creative ideas. Some see themselves in ecology, some in education or fashion, others want to launch a restaurant chain. Sometimes we are approached by young people who are already running their own projects. These students often are much more motivated and know exactly what they want, so it’s much easier and more interesting for mentors to work with them. But we do our best to support mentees who haven’t yet established how mentors could help, but really want to collaborate with leading experts; we help these students form a clear vision of tasks ahead and introduce them to professionals. The sphere of IT is also gaining extreme popularity both among students and graduates. Here we work with a wide range of different questions, from programming for beginners to business IT support,” explained the Recursion mentorship program founder Elena Borovaia.
It is up to mentors and mentees to choose the format of their collaboration. During their consultation meetings, they also come up with a bespoke working plan which they adhere to and implement in the course of the program. Each mentorship collaboration is meant to have a set deadline and clearly defined results. The mentees should always keep in mind that although mentors provide their expert support and recommendations, it is students who have to make decisions and act on their responsibility.
To become a mentor, graduates need to fill in a form indicating their areas of expertise, preferable working format, and mentee selection criteria. After that, they will be contacted by project coordinators to verify their identity. Only university graduates can become mentors, although there are no age limits for doing that.