Wednesday 1 December, the kick-off of a new edition of the Meet Your Mentor mentoring programme took place. In the Doelenzaal, 28 mentees and the same number of mentors came together to start the programme. During this gathering, the programme was introduced to the participants, and the mentors and mentees discovered who their match will be for the coming three months.
‘This is the fourth edition of Meet Your Mentor, now with five participating faculties. That’s more than I could have hoped for when we initiated this mentoring programme,’ says Meltem Halaceli, Meet Your Mentor project leader in the CDO (Chief Diversity Officer) team. ‘On the other hand, I’m not surprised that we’ve got a full hall here today. Meet Your Mentor is an evidence-based programme that has already proved its worth several times. Still, it’s great to see that ever more students and mentors are taking part and inspiring each other.’
Geert ten Dam officially opened the evening, stressing the importance of this programme for the University of Amsterdam. ‘The strength of Meet Your Mentor is that it involves two-way traffic. The mentees learn from mentors about how to develop themselves as professionals, but at the same time, the mentors learn just as much from the mentees: what challenges students face, what exclusion mechanisms they experience and how they as mentors can themselves bring about corresponding change in their own companies and organisations,’ says Geert.
After the welcoming speech, the mentors and mentees got better acquainted with each other in small groups. The joint assignment was to make a shared top three from a short list of ten different values, such as love, health, money, career, religion, education and culture, after which the results were discussed by all participants jointly. After all, can you actually create a ranking here? How do you interpret the word ‘love’? Is money a prerequisite for certain values? Does the stage of life in which you find yourself determine what you find important? In other words, the assignment was less about the result and more about getting people to think about how values relate to the paths we choose and what we find important in the working environment; this made it a good way to start the mentoring programme.
Next, the matches were announced, and mentors and mentees could find each other and agree on a meet-up to get started. Mentor Ian van Lidth de Jeude, psychologist and career counsellor, was pleasantly surprised by his match: ‘It turned out I’d been sitting next to him at the table all along! So it was nice to have already got to know him a little in this way. I think we can learn a lot from each other. I’m 66 years old, and I love my work. For me, this programme is a welcome addition to the work I already do: I get to hear the perspectives of young people who face other challenges than I encounter in my daily work.’
Mentee Ilayda Alav, Law student, is taking part in Meet Your Mentor because she would like to extend her network, but also to learn more about the practical field. Ilayda explains, ‘That’s something I really miss at the moment – due to the academic nature of the university, I sometimes lack a picture of how things are in reality. That's exactly what a mentor can show me.’ The mentors learn from the mentees what they might be able to do differently within their organisation or company. In law, for example, a low internship allowance is often an exclusive factor, because not every student can afford it. However, internships are important to gain experience and get a job later on. 'By participating, my mentor becomes aware of what might be changed. In this way I make the path easier for other students, too,' says Ilayda.
Meet Your Mentor supports Dutch students whose roots lie in Turkey, North Africa, Asia, Suriname or the Caribbean region, as well as first-generation students, in their transition to the job market. The programme offers students a mentor with whom they can find their way in the job market, discuss challenges together and discover their strength as future young professionals.