Tuesday, March 1, 2011
What does one do with all these buckets of wisdom (???) collected over a working lifetime? Mentoring can put it to use, and the way to do it today is primarily online.
I have mentored professionals in the past and continue to do so today. Decades ago, face to face meetings were the way to go. Either meet on an as-needed basis or on a more formal scheduled basis. Sometimes meetings were done in the office if convenient or perhaps at lunch meetings.
Today, you can be far more efficient and effective using online technology for mentoring. Email, video chat, phone calls and webinar-style connections allow mentors and mentees to connect when questions arise and address them immediately. In fact, I prefer online webinar-style meetings to face-to-face meetings when the topic of discussion is specific such as software development questions. Better than two people trying to crowd around the same keyboard, mouse and monitor, you can both be looking at a shared screen image, control of the mouse and keyboard can go from one to the other easily, and the discussion is concrete, not a bunch of abstractions and likely misunderstandings.
For more general discussions I like video chat links such as using Skype or ooVoo (my preference). The communication isn't quite as good as face to face meetings, but I find it better than a phone call yet just as spontaneous as a phone call. And if there's a need to quickly get more specific, you can switch over to a webinar connection.
My experience with mentoring has been almost entirely limited to within a business environment. Why? Because that's where it could be done without considerable overhead of getting a mentee and myself at the same place to have a mentoring session. But online mentoring has changed all that. One of the things that the new technology enables is the ability for life-experienced and work-experienced people to work with students.
When the whole tribe sat around the campfire at night there was easy communication between the young and the old. Experience and novel challenges were easily passed in both directions. But today, kids rarely know exactly what their parents or other adults do at work all day or how they do it. And adults have only a vague understanding of what school life is really like. But that can change with online mentoring. The dinner table is probably still the best place to talk about life's challenges and solutions with your own kids, but to work with other kids, online mentoring is easy and convenient.
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