Someone to bank on

HELPING HAND

Someone to bank on

It has been a time-tested concept; the one in which the zeal of the youth finds the practical wisdom of experience. Unlike the guru-disciple relationship where the objective is for the student to learn the skills from the revered master, it talks of a bonding that goes beyond learning skills and surviving in competitive environments and gives the opportunity for two individuals in different points of their careers to exchange ideas  and influence each other.

The merits of mentorship have been realised even during ancient times, but as pressure mounts on our fledgling minds to stand up to the challenges of industries growing competitive by the day, the assisting hand of a mentor seems more important than ever before.

“Mentorship is a great opportunity for students to make life-long friendships with those working in the industry,” said Prof Pankaj Chandra, Director, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore (IIMB), as he spoke at a function recently organised by a corporate company to provide scholarships and mentoring for students.

“Demands of the corporate world are such that it is often hard to find friends. But as you deal with the complexities in the environment, you would find mentors to be ideal support to solve issues — be it professional or personal.”

IIMB, like other top institutions in the country, has a well-honed mentoring programme in which faculties are assigned a group of students who they would personally guide as they juggle with their career choices or feel the pressure of getting into top companies. 

“Most students have issues which they prefer discussing with their faculty, who is both non-interfering and empathetic at the same time (in approaching the student),” said Rajdeep Manwani, co-ordinator and faculty, Department of Commerce, Sri Bhagwan Mahavir Jain College, who mentors a group of students at his institution.

“To evolve such  a trust is a huge task for the faculty, since students don't normally open up easily. The faculty mentor has to identify if the student is making progress — both academically and personally. It is important for us to help them handle emotional issues by themselves.”

Over the last few years, institutions other than the IIMs, IITs and other premier institutions are incorporating the idea of mentorship in their programmes, though many institutions at tier 2 and 3 levels have to deal with the greater problem of finding quality teachers to run their regular courses.

However, even that gap may be filled in as the industry is showing more willingness to take up the role of mentors for many students. “This is a good idea,” said Rajdeep. “An industry mentor can not only make the student understand what is expected of him, but also prepare him to take on the challenges. That way, he/she would indirectly make the student industry-ready.”

Despite leading the IT division of an important stream of business of his organisation, Etienne  Huret, a French national working in Bangalore for a famous multi-national firm that has an active mentorship programme, feels mentoring falls naturally into his plans since it is not a stressful role.

“Of course, work at times is stressful and I may find it hard to handle the mentee, but the effectiveness of mentoring depends on how organised I am at work and this is a potential challenge,” he added.

Mentorship is the same as evolving friendships and creating the “bond” with the mentees. It is a constant “work in progress” that requires a slow-and-steady approach. Huret also thinks there is a cultural context to it.

“As a foreign national, I need to learn more about the local culture and since I spend a full week with my colleagues (who are Indians), I prefer to learn  things from someone different. This way, there’s something for me to learn as much as there is for the student,” he said.

Rakesh, another industry mentor, points at the lighter side to the relationship, where the mentor tries to remove the pressure to succeed from the mentee and puts him at ease with the task at hand.

“Coming from the industry, we certainly know how important it is for the student to succeed both in academics and in his job and career. But sometimes, our role is just to put the student at ease. It could well mean talking about weather or football or practically anything that would make him feel better, ahead of his crucial term exams, but we need to offer emotional support at times and that is very important,” said Rakesh.

Both the industry and the faculty mentors understand the need to work together in the interest of students. "A faculty mentor may have a group of them, whereas the industry mentor may have just a handful which helps them provide a better focus. If there are constant discussions between the industry and faculty mentors, they can surely complement each other to offer the best support possible for the student," Rajdeep says.

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