How Mentorship Can Help Students: Some Advice From Our Chief Mentor

Mar 20, 2017
Career development and mentoring

By Ross Krieger

MentorWorks’ Chief Mentor, Neal Colman, has some interesting insights regarding mentorship, how to best support your post-graduation job search, and how mentoring can be effective.

Here are a few that really stood out:

How can mentorship help students?

Studies and surveys have shown that university placement offices and resources have not adequately provided guidance and support to graduating students. Many students don’t know where to begin to leverage their university degrees into jobs and careers. Many students graduate with little idea of how their knowledge, background and interests can be applied in the marketplace. Add to that a very dynamic and changing economy where, with some traditional jobs disappearing and new ones appearing at previously unseen rates, knowing what to do next can certainly be a challenge.

This is where mentorship comes in – Mentors can provide students with an engaged advisor who has demonstrated success and experience in a particular area that can help the student build a road-map for their own career journey. Mentors can provide insight into how certain business work and operate and set up networking meetings and contacts for students to get exposure to jobs of interest. They also can provide honest feedback to students on skill sets and areas of needed skill development as well as students interviewing skills and presentation. Lastly, when job decisions need to be made mentors can be valuable sounding boards for students as they weigh and consider different opportunities.

Students should expect honesty and engagement from their mentors. They should expect mentors to keep appointments and give the student their full attention when together. Mentors should expect the same from the students.

As a Mentor, what do you think is more important for students to have: work experience or grades?

Obviously, both are important and have their place. Grades can show employers intellectual capacity, determination, work ethic and drive. However, work experience can give employers insights into how those skills can be translated into action and success. Being smart alone is no guarantee of effectiveness. Employers want people who can be effective in performing their tasks and can exhibit focus, creativity, collaboration, and sound judgment in their jobs. Any work experiences where those traits can be demonstrated would be valued by hiring managers. The experience does not have to be in the same job type or industry as you are looking in but real world experience does matter. Employers want to get a good sense of the candidate – who they are, can they work under stress or pressure, and can they grow into the job they are hiring for and beyond. Hiring a new employee is an underwriting exercise. The manager gathers as much information as they possibly can from all sources and then uses their best judgment to make a decision.

How to be a successful mentor?

The key to being a successful mentor starts with commitment and honesty. If you engage in a mentoring relationship you have a fiduciary obligation to provide your student with the best possible advice and insights you can. You will not know everything or have sage advice to contribute in every situation and that is perfectly fine. You just need to be honest and candid in your engagements with the student.

An effective mentor needs to do a lot of listening, especially initially in order to get a real handle on the students’ needs and aspirations.  Then the goal is to work as a team to create a plan and a strategy to achieve those aspirations. You will be playing the role of coach, cheerleader, taskmaster and teacher at various times throughout the mentoring relationship.

Remember the value of knowledge, wisdom and experience can only be fully realized by passing it on to someone else.


A lesson I take from the answers Neal gave was that mentorship is a two-way street in which you really do get out what you put in. Having an experienced person in your corner during times of transition and new experiences can make things much more clear, but knowing how to engage in a constructive dialogue is something that comes with practice. Whether it is the mentee needing a sounding board or the mentor coaching through interviewing techniques, the more you participate, the more fulfilling the interactions will be.

Whether an applicant has a mentor in their field is a question I have heard many students and applicants asked before. Participation with a mentor can be as valuable as one on one time with your boss.

About the Author

Karthik Krishnan

Karthik is the CEO and Co-founder of MentorWorks Education Capital as well as a tenured Associate Professor of finance at Northeastern University and a former angel investor with Launchpad Venture Group. His teaching and research in the areas of entrepreneurship and education finance has made him a go-to-resource and thought leader on education financing having published various articles on the subject. He has mentored many students and assisted them in securing meaningful internships and jobs. Reach out to Karthik at

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