Photo courtesy: Canva.

Lead author Consuelo Waight.
University of Houston

Students paired with professional mentors are more likely to gain a deep understanding and passion for their work, according to new research led by Consuelo Waight, associate professor of human development at the University of Houston.

“By taking the students outside the classroom, they saw the relevance and meaningfulness of what they were learning. That motivated them beyond case studies,” Waight said in a statement.

“Organization development was now personal. It was not a concept in a book.”

Waight began asking students in her introductory-level graduate class to connect with professional mentors over a decade ago. Her students are required to keep a journal detailing their interactions as part of the program.

Those diary entries served as the study’s dataset.

After analyzing the journals, Waight and her colleague Mayura Pandit-Tendulkar of the Emeritus Institute of Management in Aberdeen, Scotland argue mentorship benefits students in several ways, by providing a deeper understanding of concepts, by demonstrating how widely a concept is used in an organization, and by providing real-life applications of theoretical concepts.

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The findings align with other data suggesting mentors can inspire students — especially those from minority groups.

A 2017 survey of more than 1,000 North American professionals, for example, found that companies that offer mentorship, 74 per cent of minority respondents said they participated, compared to 65 per cent of the general population.

Minorities were also more likely to cite mentoring as “extremely important” to career growth, (32 per cent compared to 27 per cent of the overall sample).

“[White] women and ethnic minority professionals may place more value on mentoring because they tend to face more obstacles in progressing in their careers and are seeking advice and counsel that will help them accelerate their development and career progression,” said Mark Livingston, global managing partner of the Natural Resources sector and member of the CEO & Board practice at Heidrick & Struggles, the firm that conducted the survey.

“Companies looking to better unlock the potential of attracting, developing and retaining this important employee base should work to foster an environment that embraces mentorship as a part of the corporate culture, further illustrating their commitment to developing their best talent.”