How to Mentor Students for IT Projects

(This was originally published on Optimal Partners’ blog.)

Mentoring Benefits Everyone

Mentoring is an incredibly rewarding experience. However, effective mentoring can often be difficult while managing a demanding project. Students may unintentionally be left by the wayside and you will need to ensure that they feel useful and engaged. This process takes time; but remember that it’s worth the effort to help undergraduates figure out where their skills and interests lie—once a strong connection is established, everyone involved will reap the benefits.

Treat Them Like Part of the Team

The work that a mentee is assigned should make them feel like an asset to the project. Giving students “busy work” and keeping them separate from their coworkers defeats the point of mentoring in the first place because both the student and the team will lose out on valuable learning experiences. Think of it like the domino effect: if the mentee is too busy getting coffee, they won’t be gaining the first-hand experience they need to succeed. Conversely, the team will lose the fresh perspective that a student will bring. Ultimately, an experienced team creates effective projects, but welcoming new ideas can lift the final product to a new level.

Help Them To Realize Their Goals

“Provide the guidance that will lead them towards realizing [their] goals.”

Mentoring isn’t only about finding talented students to work on your projects. Each student has their own goals and aspirations and it should be your aim to provide the guidance that will lead them towards realizing those goals. The best way to find out their interests and strengths in the field is to establish a functional relationship. Make time for as much one-on-one interaction with your students as possible: try meeting your team members for coffee or schedule a weekly meeting to discuss their progress. Getting to know your team members helps build an understanding that allows both parties to benefit.

Time Management Is Key

Everyone involved in Higher Education is busy, be it a student or IT professional. Scheduling mishaps with your team are bound to happen. Instead of focusing on them negatively, let them be a learning opportunity in effective time management. This, however, is not the solution to every problem. A demanding project may pull you away from your mentee in the same way that school may pull them away from you; both parties must accept this as a caveat of the mentorship.

Return on Investments

As long as everyone is willing to devote the time and energy needed to work together, both the students and your project will benefit. While it may be difficult to arrange the parameters of a mentorship, it is certainly an investment with a vast array of returns: not only for the sake of your project but the overall working environment. For more information about the many advantages of hiring undergraduate and graduate students for your projects, we have additional resources for you to peruse.

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