Mentoring in Social Distancing Times

Mentoring is a people-centred activity, and a lot of mentors and mentees enjoy the social aspect of it, which involves the two parties meeting somewhere to chat. “Social interaction” is usually one of the many benefits gained from mentoring that mentors and mentees highlight in feedback responses. So, how can someone keep going with mentoring in these times of self-isolation?

E-mentoring is not a new concept. Mihram (2004) defines e-mentoring as the linking of a senior, more experienced person with a lesser skilled individual, independent of geography. It is considered to be similar to traditional mentoring, with primary form of communication between the two parties being electronic (Knouse, 2001; Risquez, 2008; Hamilton & Scandura, 2003).

We have already just highlighted an advantage of e-mentoring: mentoring interactions that otherwise would be impossible. Connecting people from all over the world to help each other is not something to ignore. It widens the pool of mentors and gives the opportunity for more flexible and frequent meetings, by cutting down commuting time, and meeting even when one is away – or both in self-isolation, from the comfort of your home!

However, the virtual nature of e-mentoring could have a negative impact on the development of meaningful relationships, since it requires a certain level of emotional maturity, and some people might find being able to share their emotions through a video/phone call challenging. But in the tough times we are all going through, e-mentoring is the only way to go to preserve our mentoring relationships and receive/give the support needed; maybe now more than ever.

Even though you might not like how you look on Zoom, avoid the temptation to cancel your meeting, because it’s now easier. Yes, it definitely works better if you have a stable network and know how to use the right online tools; so, try to spend some time “playing” with them before your meeting. Also, make sure you prepare for your online meeting as you would for an in-person one; just because it is online it doesn’t mean that the established agenda should not be followed.

E-mentoring certainly takes the relationship in a different setting, but it can still be the useful and meaningful relationship you want to have in your life. So, don’t let the current situation affect it. You might even like it that much that when life goes back to normal you blend online with face-to-face meetings for a super-effective relationship!

Stay strong. 

References:

Mihram, D. (2004). E-mentoring. USC: Center for Excellence in Teaching

Knouse, S. B. (2001). Virtual mentors: Mentoring on the Internet. Journal of Employment Counseling, 38(4), 162-169

Risquez, A. (2008). E-mentoring: An extended practice, an emerging discipline. In F. J. GarciaPenalvo (Ed.), Advances in e-learning: Experiences and methodologies (pp. 61-82). Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing

Hamilton, B. A., & Scandura, T. A. (2003). E-mentoring: Implications for organizational learning and development in a wired world. Organizational Dynamics, 31(4), 388-402

Shrestha et al. (2009). From Face‐to‐Face to e‐Mentoring: Does the “e” Add Any Value for Mentors?International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(2), 116-124 

(Version of this article was previously published by Athina Frantzana, PhD on LinkedIn)

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