Mentorship is often an underappreciated yet deeply impactful experience for students who are launching careers. In particular, students who participate in Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities benefit from mentors as they explore new workplace cultures, industries and skills. And in providing mentorship to students, supervisors gain new skills and organizations are able to foster more inclusive and collaborative environments. Despite the benefits, the specific skills that mentors rely on to ensure quality WIL experiences can be ambiguous, and strategies for providing mentorship to students aren’t always obvious. 

To learn more, BHER engaged over 600 workplace supervisors, business and community leaders, academic professionals and other skills and training stakeholders. The conversations focused on the skills mentors need, the strategies they can use, and the overarching role that mentorship can play in creating quality WIL experiences.  Experts we spoke with also stressed the importance of mentorship for equity-deserving groups, who face unique challenges and barriers in accessing education and employment opportunities. Be sure to check out our Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in WIL Guide to learn more.

The bottom line? There aren’t one-size-fits-all approaches, but generally, high-quality WIL calls for good mentors.  Recognizing this, BHER developed a mentorship guide to introduce some general mentorship strategies to WIL supervisors. This guide can help establish positive mentorship relationships in the workplace and contribute to quality WIL experiences. 

These steps include:

  • Checking in often and monitoring student’s progress. While every mentorship relationship is different in frequency of contact, setting up consistent check-ins allows you and your student to track progress, identify challenges and develop mutual trust.
  • Managing expectations. An honest conversation about expectations will go a long way towards setting desired learning and career objectives for both parties. These discussions should be ongoing in order to understand what’s working for both the mentor and mentee, and what should be adapted throughout the WIL placement, and beyond.
  • Developing social and emotional skills (SES). These core “human” skills include empathy, communication, active listening, collaboration and much more — and are essential skills to develop in order to succeed as a mentor. 
  • Getting feedback. Mentorship is an iterative process - exit surveys can be great to provide valuable feedback about a student’s overall experience, but don’t wait until the end to solicit feedback from them. Integrate regular feedback into your check-ins in order to adjust your mentorship approach to the needs of your mentee, and adapt to new challenges together.

To learn more, download the full guide below.

This strategic guide provides employers with a place to start to grow their mentorship skills and introduce best practices in ensuring positive mentorship relationships. We welcome any feedback, emerging research, success stories, and resources on mentorship in WIL that you think should be on our radar. You can contact us at @email.