Introducing international students to the Dutch employment market: that's the idea behind Hello Mentor. The students are paired with a mentor who helps them in their search. The first seventeen pairs have made plenty of progress in the past months. They look back on the process during a closing event. "As a mentor, I've been able to contribute to the development of talent and that's important both for the business community and our society."
During the last event, students and mentors looked for what is known as a meme. An image that represents how the international students feel about their first steps in the employment market. Because let's face it, it isn't easy if you don't speak the language, don't know the culture well enough yet and are wondering what the best step would be for your career. A number of different images were chosen. The one of the Disney characters Nemo and Dory, shivering in the sea with a huge shark in the background, stands for the feeling that many of the students have.
So Hello Mentor came along at just the right time for them. Because even though the little clown fish looks scared, it does have a buddy to accompany it in the challenge. A buddy that understands its fears and has done this before. The mentors are happy to be able to contribute to the students' development in this way. They say things like: "I took the same steps and I really want to help people who are in this situation." And: "It's good to prepare students for working life. I remember feeling very insecure as a starter in the employment market and I would have liked to have had someone to help me."
Making a plan together
Leane van Veghel of Brainport Development is happy with the experiences up till now: “This pilot appears to resonate. We've held four meetings, of which two were online. The meetings were a combination of business and pleasure. The pairs worked on a plan of action for the student. That forms a nice guideline and gives them structure. But naturally, you can always adjust it; you never know exactly what's going to happen in life.”
Now that the official period of four months is finished, a connection has been forged. “They stay in contact. Not only that, but the first jobs have already been offered. And another lovely initiative: many mentors give their mentee the opportunity of spending a day at the company.” The next group of students and mentors can't wait to get started. “The kick-off of the second group was on 17 March. It is again a lovely mixed group, ranging from hbo to wo students and from IT techies to engineers.”
Not only do the students make other students enthusiastic, there is also no shortage of new mentors in this second round. “The first-round mentors have motivated their colleagues to get involved too. We've also noticed that potential mentors get in touch with us, because they're so keen to contribute to the development of this younger generation.”
Now that a second edition is taking place, we can say the pilot was successful. “We have plenty of plans for the future. For example, I'm hoping that we can build a sustainable approach to the programme, together with education partners. That way, they too can offer this as a standard next step to anyone interested in mentoring.”
Career in the region
Van Veghel emphasises that the success of future editions will depend on the commitment on the part of the various parties. “I hope that the business community is able to encourage mentors to take part in the programme and also to give the employee the time to do it well. Who knows, it might well result in new employees in the future; some mentees already have a good idea of where they want to work. By investing in these talented students now, you increase the chances of them choosing to join your company or organisation later.”
“With this pilot, we've shown that it works. Here at Brainport, we're keen to contribute to this becoming a structural programme in the region.”
Photo: Bram Saeys