07 Finding mentees and mentors (Part 1)

In Module 1 – Getting started, we asked you to think about the people – both mentees and mentors – who might participate in your program. This current module can be used as a guide for identifying and seeking applications from potential mentees and mentors within a larger audience base. Module 8 – Finding mentees and mentors – part 2 will go into detail around defining selection criteria and drafting the final call for applications.

After reading this section you should:

● have thought about the most effective methods of promoting your program

● know how you will structure the application process

● be familiar with the different online tools for creating application forms.

Key questions to ask yourself

  1. Do you want to restrict applications to a defined group of people?

  2. What communication channels and networks do your potential mentees and mentors use?

  3. How will you collect applications?

7.1 Making mentoring inclusive

Before you start advertising your program or opening registrations, it is important to ensure that your communications and applications process is as inclusive as possible, and does not exclude potential mentees or mentors.

Social media and web-based application forms are cost effective and efficient ways of reaching a large number of people. However, if your program is targeting people in rural areas – as many agricultural mentoring programs do! – internet access may not be consistent or reliable. Think about these local constraints and use the communication channels that you know work well and are used most extensively in your country/organisation/target group.

7.2 Application process: How will people apply?

The mentoring approach you have chosen to follow will influence how you manage applications. The case studies presented in this toolkit all used an application form, but the way this was structured and distributed for each program varied substantially.

For example, it is common for event-based mentoring programs to integrate applications into the event registration form, while a face-to-face program may distribute an online or hard-copy application form throughout the relevant networks.

However, you may decide that there is a more effective application or registration process for your program, such as calling for written applications; directly identifying and approaching mentees and/or mentors (either in person or via email/online); having an online database where interested people can register; or any other way that works for you!

7.3 Targeted vs open call

Now that it’s time to seek applications, you need to decide how you will reach out to potential mentees and mentors. If you don’t have a clearly defined group of mentors and/or mentees, such as members of a particular organisation, or participants at a specific event, then you may wish to consider an open call.

Open calls – where there is a general announcement and call for applications or expressions of interest – have the benefit of potentially reaching out to great mentors, or mentees in need, whom you may not have identified otherwise. However, any open call needs to be carefully planned to ensure that only relevant people apply. This includes clearly defining the goals and objectives of your program, and stating any restrictions that apply to applicants (for example, an age limit or experience level required; or requirement to be working in a particular sector). Identifying your key selection criteria is discussed in detail in Module 8 – Finding mentees and mentors – part 2.

7.4 Managing expectations

The kinds of words you use in your application materials (both in promotions and the form/application documents) can influence people’s willingness to apply, and their expectations. For example, asking experienced mentors to “apply” to be a mentor may make them feel like they have to prove their value. On the other hand, asking people to “register” may create an expectation that they will be accepted and a match found. Phrasing it in terms of “register your interest to mentor/be a mentee” or “we are seeking expressions of interest” can avoid these issues.

Another expectation that mentors may have is that they will be paid for their time. None of the case studies in this toolkit pay mentors – we find that mentors who recognise that they benefit from the wisdom of others and are motivated by a keenness to give back are the best fit for our mentoring programs. Mentors do receive many non-monetary benefits (see here) that can be as good a reward as payment, so you may need to make that clear to mentors who will be part of the program.

However, if the program will require participants to travel for a face-to-face workshop or meetings then you may need to find financial resources to cover these costs. Some participants will not have the financial means to travel, which can hinder their participation.

Finally, it is important to be clear on the level of commitment expected of all participants. For example, if you plan to hold a two-day orientation workshop, applicants need to be aware of this this time commitment. Similarly, if you expect that mentees and mentors will have a minimum level of interaction (e.g. a certain number of times per month/quarter), then this needs to be clearly stated. Asking applicants to confirm their understanding and acceptance of these commitments during the application process can help ensure they are adhered to.

7.5 Keeping a database

You may identify great mentors but who don’t have the right skills or experience to mentor your selected mentees. You may consider keeping registrations for mentors open on a rolling basis in case this helps you to continue identifying great potential mentors for future programs.

Take action!

  • Decide on your application process (e.g. online and/or hard-copy application form vs asking for written applications).

  • Draft a summary of your mentoring program to be used in your call for applications.

  • Identify which networks and communications channels you will use to promote your program.

Resources

The following mentoring programs are quite different and each has a slightly different approach, as will your program. Feel free to mix and match these and find a format that best suits your style and program.

Stories

Jim, YPARD Philippines Country Representative, discussing the challenges of and approaches for managing mentors’ expectations, particularly regarding the importance of how the “application” process is framed

Dorothy, Deputy Director of AWARD, shares how she created and maintains a database of interested mentors