From Socrates and Plato to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou—if you take a closer look at some of the world’s most successful leaders, you will quickly realize that most had a mentor who had a positive impact on their careers. Mentors provide invaluable professional and personal knowledge to their mentees. Not only do they offer guidance on pivotal career decisions, but they can also provide access to a traditionally inaccessible network within a specific industry.
Here at the Yale School of Management, as SOM’s portfolio of programs expands, bringing together students from many different industry backgrounds and geographic locations, focused mentorship has the potential to keep diverse cohorts engaged while creating and strengthening professional networks across programs.
With this goal in mind, the CDO launched a mentorship program that connects the MBA for Executives program and the Master’s Degree in Global Business and Society program, called Career Connect. The objective is simple: connect the freshly arrived GBS students with the more experienced EMBA class. At the start of the academic year, in partnership with the EMBA program, we matched the students and asked them to meet at least twice a month to discuss career-related goals. The feedback for this evolving mentorship program has been overwhelmingly positive and inspiring.
What some students have shared so far is that the program can help create and maintain symbiotic and impactful relationships with other students, while helping strengthening the entire SOM community itself.
Here are some lessons learned and shared by both EMBA and GBS students involved with Career Connect:
Inspiration Goes Both Ways
A mentor is often described as a veteran professional who takes an active interest in the career development of a younger professional. They are the ones encouraging dreams and supporting career aspirations. That may be true for some cases, but many Career Connect participants have shared that inspiration is not one-way.
EMBA candidate Kristina Wyatt ’19 is senior counsel, global commercial transactions, with Latham & Watkins LLP, where one of her responsibilities includes a major redesign and implementation of the firm’s global sustainability program. Kristina was matched with GBS candidate Bianca Lontoc ’19, who was previously at IE Business School and started her own sustainable fashion boutique in the Philippines.
“I am so inspired by Bianca’s initiative, motivation, and passion,” says Kristina. “She has studied in different countries in widely varied environments, from the Philippines to Spain to the United States. Bianca has this wide-open desire to learn and to discover where she can make an impact. She strikes me as quite brave and ambitious for someone so relatively young. I think she will do great things,”
On the other side, experienced professionals can use their networks and diverse career paths to help young professionals consider new aspects of their career.
“Although Kristina and I have different backgrounds, she has helped me so much by connecting me with her peers in the EMBA program and arranging a panel discussion not only for me, but for my entire GBS class. She not only made me think about what I want to be in the next few years in my career, but she is also helping me get there,” says Bianca.
Creating Opportunities by Expanding Your Network
An essential first step in any successful mentoring relationship is that both the mentor and mentee need to identify their common and individual goals and motives. For many, participating in the program has helped develop a sense of direction and purpose when it comes to creating a professional network.
Matching EMBA candidate Loick Fenaux ’19 with GBS candidate Abhi Kumar ’19 was a no-brainer—both students are entrepreneurs passionate about the plant-based food industry. Loick is the director of business development at Naturex Inc., a leading manufacturer of natural, plant-based ingredients for the nutrition and health sector. Abhi launched a sustainable-food alternative startup while studying at HEC Paris. Both Loick and Abhi are very active at Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking and work with other entrepreneurs on campus, but for Abhi, Loick has given alternative avenues of thought.
“I appreciate being connected to someone who is also committed to the food industry,” explains Abhi. “He leads me to the right space with his knowledge of the industry. I never used to think about building a network deliberately. He has helped me build a structure, so if I see an opportunity I can be proactive.”
The relationship is about more than just sharing contacts; it’s about providing guidance on how to best utilize resources and time when developing opportunities.
“Time is very valuable, so it’s important to realize that you need to know how and where to invest your time. When you are a GBS student and you are only here for less than a year, you need to know how to manage it, because Yale has so much to offer. How do you navigate all the choices? Mentorship can be a shortcut that can help you win some of that time back,” says Loick.
He adds that Abhi has been critical in connecting him with contacts in the food industry in markets that he doesn’t usually have access to. “These [GBS] students will definitely end up in a position of power. For all of us, it is important to maintain close relationships and create a community that is influential,” he adds.
Strengthening the SOM Community
To prepare leaders for business and society, SOM is highly invested in building a strong community, as well as empowering students to consider and pursue opportunities in diverse industries.
Unlike coaching, mentorship lays the groundwork for building lifelong, high-level relationships, and when established at such an early, key part of the students’ careers, the long-term career impact of mentoring can be invaluable.
“Sometimes mentoring can be a useful way to provide guidance and advice. However, even without providing such direct help, mentors can provide the opportunity to bounce ideas off someone else who is legitimately interested in your future. Sometimes just having someone in your corner who really cares and is willing to help you can be a very positive thing,” says Kristina.
But it’s more than career guidance: “Aside from all her help in arranging the asset management panel for me and my peers to know more about the industry, [Kristina] has also encouraged me to do more extracurricular activities and get to know and love New Haven. This adds a huge value to my experience as a student, because if it weren’t for her, I would not be pushed to do these things. It feels good having someone to support me,” says Bianca.