'After the mentoring, I feel I have more courage and can do the things I actually want to'
For many students, university is a time to explore their potential and figure out their future. At Aalto, students can connect with an experienced mentor to guide them through the possibilities and challenges in this journey. We asked a mentor and mentee from Aalto Mentoring Programme about their experience and how it helped them.
Finding a path
Khanh Vu, recent MA graduate, School of Business, mentee in Aalto Mentoring Program:
‘When I started, I didn’t know what career I wanted, so I needed a person to discuss my career path with. I looked for a mentor with a similar background to me, somebody with an international background coming to Finland and working in the same field. I wanted to hear their story and how they made decisions, not just on the professional side but also in their personal path as well.
The discussions and meetings with my mentor made me feel that I had a companion who I could share things with. Of course, you can share with your friends, but in terms of career, my friends are at the same stage as me. So there were more things to discuss with the mentor, at least at that point.
When we talked about what’s important in life, both of us mentioned time with friends and family. We realised that we need to always remind ourselves what we want to achieve but also compare that with what we consider important in life in the longer term.
I used to think a lot before doing things and maybe consider too many different options. But after the mentoring, I feel I have more courage and can do the things I actually want to.’
Being a co-pilot
Junhui Wang, Head of Integrations, Outokumpu, third time Aalto Mentoring Program mentor:
‘I joined the mentoring programme because I was a mentee many years ago. I had a very inspiring mentor who helped me a lot, and we still keep in touch and meet up sometimes. I wanted to pass that spirit of helpfulness forward and try my best to share my experience.
My way of mentoring is to tell the mentee that I’m their co-pilot and they’re in the driver’s seat. In the beginning, I just listen to find out what they want and what their interest area is. Or if they don’t know yet, then I ask what things they don’t like. I always remind them that how I work comes from my history. It’s not the only way, and it might not be right for them.
I try to ask the right questions and let them talk about whatever they need to, whether professional development or something more personal. One of my mentees had some personal life challenges and was feeling quite down. At some point during the mentoring, I noticed a difference in her. I could really see a spark in her eyes. She told me that my way of mentoring and the language I used really helped her and gave her support. I was so relieved, and I felt really happy that I was able to help her and see the changes. That was a moment that really touched me. It felt like I did something right.’
What is Aalto Mentoring Programme?
The Aalto Mentoring Programme started in 2012, though there were predecessing programmes at the Helsinki School of Economics and the Helsinki University of Technology. The programme connects working-life experts with master’s students at Aalto. The programme is also multicultural and international, with people of 54 nationalities taking part. So far, 1556 mentoring pairs have gone through the programme.
‘Mentoring can promote employability, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to help the students develop their working life competencies and broaden their horizons. It’s also a very natural way for alumni to connect with the university and give something back, and it’s a good learning experience for them, too,’ says Kaisa Hölttä, who managed the programme until this March.
Interested in becoming a mentor?
If you want to help students and give back to the Aalto community, consider becoming a mentor. Read more and sign up as mentor candidate on the Aalto University Mentoring Programme website.
This article has been published in the Aalto University Magazine issue 32, April 2023.