Case: Malmö University's Career Mentoring Programme
Malmö University is a Swedish university, located in the southern part of Sweden. It is the ninth-largest educational institution in Sweden, with 24.000 students in 2021. Malmö University has an international focus; more than 240 exchange agreements with universities all over the world and more than a third of the students have an international background.
In this case, you can read about the strategic considerations and initiatives behind Malmö University’s Career Mentoring Programme.
Purpose and strategy
Due to a rapidly changing labour market, the universities are facing a huge task of helping students to transfer into the labour market. In 2016, it was on the top of the agenda at Malmö University to increase the integration and the exchange between business, education, and research. Therefore, the university established a career mentoring programme as part of facing this challenge.
The programme manager for the mentoring programme and career counsellor at Malmö University, Karin Fälth, states: “The most common question asked in relation to my job, as a career counsellor, is how do I transition my academic skills into marketable skills?” The transition from student life to life as a professional is one of the most urgent concerns of students.
The aim of the career mentoring programme is to contribute to ease this transition from being a student to a professional and support the strategic goals about increasing integration and exchange between companies and educations at Malmö University.
Malmö University encourage international cooperation and among their core values are internationalisation, global engagement, and diversity – and these are all values that the mentoring programme, both Swedish and international students, helps to support. The career mentoring programme is a part of increasing the attraction of Malmö University in regarding of recruiting international students.
”That we are able to offer the mentoring programme as an opportunity is one of our strongest marketing tools, towards attracting international students”, says Karin Fälth.
The international focus of the mentoring programme has contributed to the expanding of the university’s network across boundaries and strengthened the idea generation among students and staff.
Malmö University Career Mentoring Programme
The career mentoring programme was launched in 2016 and has a duration of eight months. Malmö University defines mentoring as a learning alliance. The students manage the process, in the sense that they must present the goals, which they wish to achieve and thus lead the process forward, while at the same time the mentors gain new knowledge from the students.
20 mentors and mentees are each year selected and matched based on their professional interest, goals, and expectations. The mentees are both Swedish and international master students. To be part of the programme, as a mentee, the students will send a motivated application, where they will demonstrate honesty and personality, and not least what they expect from the process. The process begins by matching the students with mentors, that match their goals and expectations. The mentors must have at least five years of work experience and they come from all kind of companies in the Øresunds region. Both large and small companies, public and private companies, and NGOs, but also from the university itself, because some of the students dream of becoming a Ph.D. student. The purpose of the programme is to show how the Swedish labour market works. It is therefore important to include all types of companies and organisations. As a part of inspiring and motivating the students, the university often selects mentors who are alumni from Malmö University, and they continue to work on increasing the number of mentors who are alumni.
An important element in the structure of the mentoring programme, and its success, is the programme manager, who has the overall responsibility for the programme and works as a link between the participants and the programme. Besides being a career counsellor at Malmö University, Karin Fälth is the programme manager for the career mentoring programme. She equally distributes her time between the two tasks, and her role has been very important for the success of the programme. Karin is an accredited Mentor+Facilitator™ through KMP+ House of Mentoring and use the Mentor+Game™ to train mentors and mentees. The participants receive a workbook and a set of role cards and it has, according to Karin, been a huge help for the mentor/mentee pairs:
“It is easier to prepare for the meetings by using the material and subsequently document it in a structured way. This increases the benefit of participating in the programme,” says Karin Fälth.
In addition, the Mentor+Game™ and the materials have been a help to make the participants actively work with Mentor's Many Roles and also contributed to the learning process:
“It forced me to learn how to work with the different roles – it forced me into these roles that I wouldn’t naturally use. It had been a different journey without the material, we need the material to discover other aspects of ourselves, which is a type of learning as well”, says mentor.
It has been very important for Karin, as a programme manager, to individually meet all the mentors and mentees before the start of the programme, in order to evaluate the participants' motivations and expectations to participate in the mentoring programme and consider the matches between mentor and mentee. Beside the individual conversations, three joint events are held during the programme, which should be seen both as an advantage for the participants, that get the opportunity to network with the other participants and for the programme manager as well, who gets inputs to the programme. To start off the programme, a kick-off event is held, where the mentor/mentee match are revealed, and the participants meet each other for the first time. A midterm evaluation is held halfway during the programme, that gives the participants the opportunity to network and at the same time gives the programme manager the opportunity to evaluate and adjust the programme. The university holds a closing event at the end of each programme, where the participants must evaluate the process.
The evaluation focus on questions, that provides a general assessment of the structure of the programme and the process in general, but also questions, that assess the collaboration between mentor and mentee. Additionally, the purpose of the evaluation is to get an insight into whether the expectations of the mentors and mentees have been met. It is, according to Karin, important knowledge for the programme manager in addition to developing the programme. The evaluation also provides an insight into why the programme is important and how it contributes.
These are some of the answers from last year evaluation:
“Both my CV and LinkedIn profile were improved. I got new contacts from two organisations, inside knowledge about my mentor’s former and current work area and advice on how I should administer the job search process” mentee.
I have learned that I have a lot to offer! My mentee has made it easy for me to give. It also brought me an emphatic and insightful perspective on those challenges, that the new workforce will face. It also helped me to understand and set clear boundaries and goals”, mentor.
”To be more confident. Explore my own abilities. And most important, the help is always out there. All we have to do is ask for it”, mentee.
“I believe the most interesting thing I have learned is that even when you are retiring, you still have the same fear, the doubt about yourself and general feelings, a sensitivity. I feel more human”, mentor.
Mentees benefits and reflections
As a mentee, there are many benefits to participate in the mentoring programme. It is an opportunity to get connected to the labour market and to be prepared for the transition from student to professional. The students will get a deeper understanding of their competences and how they can use it in a different and new setting. It will be a help for them in their career, but in their personal development as well.
”I have learned that I have underestimated myself and I am capable of much more, than I think”, says mentee.
The programme is a unique opportunity, for the international students, to get an insight in how the Swedish labour market works. The programme can also be seen as an advantage when it comes to retain the international students after they graduate. The programme help to expand their network and therefore increase their chances to find a job in the region. They can strengthen their network during the programme through their mentor and the other mentors and students. Additionally, the mentoring programme helps to provide an understanding of the corporate culture in Sweden, that can be difficult for the international students to interpret.
“My motivation for participating in the programme was that I could imagine myself subsequently later living in Scandinavia and therefore wanted to get knowledge about the labour market. It is important for international students to get a network, if you subsequently want to get a job”, says an international mentee.
Mentors benefits and reflections
There is also an opportunity for mentors to develop themselves by participating in the programme. The mentors get the opportunity to develop and explore their leadership competences, and it can challenge them to make changes e.g. in relation to their leadership style. The mentor role also teach the mentors how to be a role model and what it means.
“I went into the process and thought about the role model, because I wanted the process to be equally. I have learned something about the role model both in relation to what kind of role model I am, and what kind of role model my mentee is in relation to me”, says mentor.
The international focus of the mentoring programme gives the mentors the opportunity to learn about different cultures and communication methods. The mentors bring a lot of knowledge, but will get a lot in return as well.
"I have always been curious, and it has only gotten bigger in this process and I have been more openminded to other perspectives through this process that has helped enrich my life", says mentor.
Challenges in relation to design and implementation – how were they solved?
Since the launch of the mentoring programme in 2016, there has been improvements as well as challenges. It is generally a challenge for mentoring programmes for students to find and match external mentors, which also Malmö University has experienced. It is a complete different process to find external mentors from different sectors and parts of the labour market, than for a mentoring programme with internal mentors from the same organisation. To meet this challenge, Malmö University has decided to use some of the mentors in more rounds of the programme. Furthermore, Malmö University has used their corporate LinkedIn profile to recruit new mentors. This solution seemed to be a success due to the 45.000 followers on LinkedIn and because they have received more inquiries from potential mentors than what they needed. As a part of finding the correct mentors and increase the number of mentors, who are alumni from Malmö University, the university has created a new position, alumni coordinator, which in the future will work to achieve the goal of 50% mentors, who are alumni.
The mentoring programme extend over eight months, and one of the first questions that occurred, in relation to establishing the programme, was “how do we keep them motivated for eight months?” As a starting point, mentor and mentee meet once a month, it was therefore very important for the university to arrange some common activities and events for all the participants. It helps to motivate the participants and simultaneously present inputs to improvements of the programme for the programme manager. In addition, the introductory meetings, that the programme manager arrange with all the mentors and mentees, are also a matching of expectation for all parties in the programme, which can be a benefit to provide a realistic picture of what is expected of them and what they can expect to get in return.
As a programme manager of a mentoring programme for students, it has been a challenging task to keep in touch with and create a connection to the leaders for the 18 different institutes, who takes part in the programme. Furthermore, it is a time-consuming task to inform all the students at the different institutes about the programme. But for everyone to have an equal chance to participate in the programme, Karin has made it a priority to tell directly to all the students, during one of their classes, about the programme. Resources is therefore a big challenge, and according to Karin, could she easily use extra assistance despite that she spends 50% of her time on managing the programme.
Intentions for the future
Besides increasing the rate of mentors, who are alumni from Malmö University, the university dreams to expand the programme as well. Even though, there already are a high number of participants from various institutes, a lot of those who apply to participate as a mentee, end up getting rejected. The goal is therefore to have 50-70 students participating in the programme. It is still questionable whether it is necessary to create more programmes, that are more specific for each education or if the programme will be designed differently. Karin Fälth hopes that she, in the future, can welcome even more students and mentors to the programme and together strengthen the relation between Malmö University and businesses and its international network.