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The Mentoring Wishing Tree

Young people place their dreams of what they would like to learn to do on a wishing tree and potential mentors select the young person they are most excited about helping.

Photo of fjr
11 15

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You know how shopping malls at holiday time often have trees on which needy children have attached their holiday wishes? Passersby look at what is on the tree and pull down the wish they would most like to fulfill to make a child happy.

What if an organization approached big companies and foundations such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Boeing, the Gates Foundation, and others that encourage their staff to volunteer and asked to place a rack or tree of some kind in a common area? The rack or tree, rather than displaying needy children's desires for coats or toys, would show young people's wishes for the career-readiness sorts of skills they would like to learn?

[If a physical tree sounds old-fashioned, let me share that the Gates Foundation in their visitor center already now has tree-like racks where visitors are encouraged to hang an index card describing their intentions for community service. There isn't any matching function involved in the Gates Foundation tree/racks, but there could be]

Employees would be encouraged to mentor one of these unemployed young people in the area they identify. A company like Microsoft already pays employees for a large number of hours of volunteer time, which makes it easier for potential mentors to make the time commitment.

To augment the physical trees, there would be an online matching platform that would be promoted to companies to encourage their professional staff to volunteer as mentors.

How will your concept support young people as they transition into the world of work?

Young people from privileged backgrounds often have access to mentors, internships, and resources to pursue their dreams. Other young people do not have any avenue for making such connections. A relationship with a mentor can offer a role model, advice on career development, and the teaching of skills. If a young person shows promise, the mentor may even be able to assist the young person in becoming connected to a network of people who might be able to help the young person on his or her way.

What online or in-person components of your concept will best support this transition?

Mentors and young people could communicate in person or online or both. Exactly how they would work would depend on the special skills and interests of both the mentor and the mentored. Young people could post their mentoring wishes on an online platform, sharing their background, interests, and geographic location so that mentors who want a face-to-face relationship with the mentee could mentor someone nearby, and those who prefer to mentor people who already have certain skill sets could do so.

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Photo of Carol Shu
Team

Such a great idea! I could see this easily being incorporated into university internship & career centers. I think most schools already have online databases where students can search for internship & job opportunities but a mentor database seems more important for giving students real-world knowledge and preparing them for internships & jobs.

Photo of fjr
Team

Thanks, Carol. I really important part of this is the other direction. That is, there has to be an attractive way of getting mentors to take interest in particular students. Many people might not want to volunteer to be part of a bank of mentors willing to be contacted by lots of people but would be happy to pick from among the people whose descriptions make it seem like a good match from the mentor's side.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

I really like this idea! There aren't enough positive/creative/helpful mentors currently in any part of the work environment, and by having people volunteer means that they are making a personal choice to make a difference instead of people that are forced into being a mentor for young people at the entry-level position. This might be a great concept to integrate into organizations such as IIDA, ASA, etc., so that graduating students or entry-level workers can find mentors directly linked to their area(s) of study.

Photo of fjr
Team

Thanks. I believe that research supports the great benefit of a mentor in the development of a range of dispositions and skills. The value as a potential reference in the job search is also clear, if the mentor has a track record that suggests credibility.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Really cool fjr. While thinking on the concept you have presented, another direction to this came to my mind.
It’s based on “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”. At the end, we all work towards fulfilling our dreams.
What if young people put up their dreams onto to such kind of common platform. With this, various people from various different region, community sharing same or similar dreams can collaborate and work towards achieving their dreams.
Even this would help mentor in collaborating with mentee who share similar dreams. It is like “Enabling the dreams of others”.
Ya, you can make out I am really fascinated by Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Lecture

Photo of fjr
Team

Thanks, Sandeep. Your idea reminded me of how some people use vision boards to keep their ideas in view. With sites such as Pinterest, it would be easy enough to share these. Of course the web provides wonderful opportunities to form communities of interest and communities of practice.

Photo of Karolle Rabarison
Team

I second Meena's suggestion to use an online platform, picturing a color-coded and easily searchable database of wishes for mentors.

Now I'd like to open the discussion to two details (1) reach and (2) effectiveness:
- By "reach" I mean, the range of skills addressed. Would there be pre-set skills categories from which prospective mentees sort of...check off the experience or knowledge base they're looking to acquire? Perhaps focused on the particular firm's expertise? Or, would mentees be free to define and customize?
- As for effectiveness, should there be a feedback mechanism, and what would the timeframe for that look like? Would mentors direct mentees to get certain experience and then move on, or maintain the relationship? To put it another way, I'm wondering what incentives could be incorporated to keep mentors invested.

Photo of fjr
Team

Thank you, Karolle, for your thoughtful suggestions. In reference to reach, the prospects of a successful match depend on the mentee's not being highly specific. If the mentee selects something highly specific or esoteric, he may not get a mentor at all. There needs to be flexibility on both sides to attract good mentors.
Mentors would likely retain the relationship if the mentee showed diligence and promise. The mentoring would likely shift from teaching of skills to interactions about the necessary dispositions and further education or training to move into that field of work. I think the sorts of professionals you want to attract to mentoring are the sort for whom the incentives must be intrinsic. These typically will be busy people whose time is very valuable.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Interesting, fjr! I wonder if this idea might also translate to an onine Wishing Tree as well? I can imagine some great UX wrapped around it so that folks can post to Facebook, Twitter, etc to help spread the whole campaign. Then stories of success could be shared online as well?

Photo of fjr
Team

Indeed, Meena, an online component makes great sense! Might the visible, physical configuration in a lobby be harder for a lucky professional to walk by every day without responding?

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Quite possibly. Though they might also like the wider reach and less of a commitment to physical infrastructure provided by an online platform. Looking forward to onward discussion and builds with other ideators here!