Mobilising mentoring with alumni support

Ask Alumni is made possible thanks to University of Melbourne alumni who generously give their time. More than 4000 alumni have registered to support students and fellow alumni in their career goals through the program.

Traditional mentoring has always helped students and professionals thrive in their careers, and now, a new approach to mentoring is having an even greater impact.

The University of Melbourne’s Ask Alumni – established in 2018 – is a flash mentoring program that facilitates short, one-off conversations to help students and alumni achieve their career goals.

Facilitated through an online platform, Ask Alumni invites mentors and mentees to create profiles featuring their career experience and goals respectively.

Where traditional mentoring would set up one exclusive, long-term mentoring relationship, with Ask Alumni, mentees can request a one-off meeting with a mentor – and reach out to as many potential mentors as they’d like.

Ask Alumni’s in-built algorithm suggests appropriate mentors to mentees based on their profiles – however, mentees can also use the platform to search for desirable mentors.

Mentees can seek any career-related advice that they wish. Some common topics of discussion include: how to gain confidence and career direction, tips on successfully adjusting to the working world, improving professional communication skills, and assistance with resume review and interview techniques.

Why flexible mentoring?

The foundations of traditional mentoring are solid. Studies have shown that employees involved in mentoring  are promoted five times as often as those who aren’t. But conventional mentoring programs have their limitations.

Mentoring is traditionally thought of as a process where the mentee-mentor relationship is cultivated over time. But depending on how well-matched the partnership is – or how frequent and accessible conversations are – it can take some time for mentees to feel that the relationship is influencing  their career.

One-time mentoring can help overcome this issue and offer some additional benefits in a shorter time frame. Through Ask Alumni, mentees can benefit from: a variety of different perspectives, an introduction to a variety of different workplace or professional cultures, greater consistency in meeting their diverse needs, and of course – a better chance of finding the right mentee-mentor match.

It’s for these reasons that Ask Alumni mentees are encouraged to connect with as many mentors as they can. And with around 85 per cent of jobs being filled through networking, generating a vast professional network has the added benefit of leading mentors and mentees alike to employment opportunities.

Stable support through COVID-19

Although Ask Alumni was launched before the emergence of COVID-19, it has proven to be a valuable tool through this time of disconnectedness. Ask Alumni users were able to continue establishing connections, and even form long-term relationships, via phone, Zoom or email.

At a time when the job market changed rapidly – and many industries changed the way they operated – Ask Alumni provided a flexible and fast way for mentees to find much-needed guidance. This was especially useful for students studying offshore.

Its value continued to grow as networking events and traditional face-to-face mentoring sessions were cancelled and postponed through lockdown. Through it all, Ask Alumni was able to provide ongoing service to those in need of career advice.

Martin showed Kiran the way

Kiran and Martin

Ask Alumni mentee Kiran, and mentor, Martin. Hear more about their experience with the program.

Kiran couldn’t envision her future career at the beginning of her Master of IT. Added to this uncertainty was the fact that she was an international student in a new city.

Through Ask Alumni, Kiran found an easy way to connect with Martin – a University of Melbourne alum and Senior Software Engineer – who shared plenty of common ground with her but had the added benefit of experience.

“I felt I could relate to Martin because he and I did the same degree, and he was an international student as well," shared Kiran.

He told me nothing would be a bad experience; all you would do was filter out career choices you don’t like.

Since speaking with Martin, Kiran has begun exploring internships and fields of work to find out what she enjoys most.

For Martin, giving opportunities to others that he didn’t have as a student was important. “As an international student, you come to a new country and you can often be struggling a lot. At that time, I didn’t have any support at all,” he said.

That’s why I’m trying to help [Kiran] – not by deciding her path, but by giving her a lot of information to figure out what she can do to help her achieve what she wants to achieve.

Support gave rise to Ask Alumni

Since the innovative flash mentoring program was  established, it has continued to grow and adapt to the  needs of those seeking and providing career advice –  thanks to the generosity of the University’s alumni community.

In August 2018, Ask Alumni was launched, and by the end of the year it had engaged over 3500 students and alumni globally – quickly becoming the University’s largest student and alumni mentoring program. Over 1000 mentoring meetings were accepted in just four months.

The program continued to grow, reaching over 7300 registered users in 2019, with more than 1500 connections made throughout the year. The program proved itself to be particularly popular with international students, who made up over 60 per cent of registrations.

Originally, the program only facilitated student-alumni connections. Then in 2020, the platform gave alumni the opportunity to seek career advice through the platform by facilitating alumni-alumni connections as well.

Ask Alumni became the University’s biggest alumni volunteer program in 2020 – thanks to the generosity of our community and the platform’s ease-of-access amid COVIDSafe measures. 1519 alumni registered as a mentor in the program for the first time in 2020.

In 2021, Ask Alumni had garnered more than 14,000 users. Alumni-alumni connections made up 20 per cent of connection requests in the program, with most alumni mentees being recent graduates. Overall, more than 2300 career conversations took place throughout the year.

The University community thanks its generous mentors for their investment into future generations of Melbourne graduates through Ask Alumni.


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