One of the great things about mentoring is the real, human connection that’s created by two or more people. It gets us back to a time before social media – before we considered a “like” a meaningful interaction with another person. Mentoring requires thoughtful conversations, brainstorming and generally diving in deep with someone else. Does that mean that online mentoring runs counter to forming an impactful mentoring relationship? Quite the contrary.
Just as technology has enabled more flexibility in our workplaces, schools and society at large—from video conferencing platforms (e.g., Zoom, Google Hangouts) to online collaboration tools (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams)—it has enabled more flexibility in how mentors and mentees can get and stay connected. It even opens up some new possibilities that aren’t feasible when keeping things strictly face-to-face. Think mentoring programs focused on connecting people across locations—nationally or internationally. This is only made possible via technology and an online mentoring program, unless you plan to rack up some serious travel costs.
Even for mentors and mentees who prefer to meet in person, there are times—illness, travel, a packed schedule—when the flexibility of technology ensures the relationship can continue even if an in-person meetup isn’t doable. Here are a few ways to leverage technology to enhance or enable your mentoring program.
Online Chat for Quick Check-Ins
Not every interaction between mentor and mentee requires a meeting. Updates can be provided or questions answered with a quick touch base. If using a mentoring platform (like Chronus), it’s great to do this messaging within the application, if available, so the mentors and mentees don’t have to remember what communication channel they were utilizing. This also allows the mentoring platform to remain a single source of information on the mentoring connection. There may even be integrations with popular messaging platforms so that mentors and mentees can utilize the messaging tools they’re already using for other things.
Video Conferencing for Virtual Meetings
If you can’t meet in person, for whatever reason, the next best option is a video conference. Soon, maybe we’ll even be utilizing virtual reality to “get in the same room.” So much communication is non-verbal—e.g., body language, facial expressions—so encouraging mentors and mentees to use video and keep the video feed on during a video conference will ensure they’re building strong connections and avoiding miscommunication.
Mobile App for Mentoring on the Go
Depending on the particular mentoring program, you may have mentors and mentees that have less access to a laptop compared to a smartphone, or simply prefer the latter. If you are using mentoring software, seek out one that includes a mobile app for flexibility to keep those mentoring relationships going—even when mentors and/or mentees are on the go.
Of course, the beauty is you don’t necessarily have to choose online mentoring over meeting in person, if the participants in your program are in close enough proximity. They can do a little bit of both, using both in-person meetings as well as technology to create a deeply human connection while meeting their professional or personal goals.
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