The Impact of Mentoring: Q&A With Jenny Anderson
Jenny Anderson (Retail Merchandising ‘95), has been volunteering at the University of Minnesota for nearly two decades. She served as member and president of the College of Human Ecology Alumni Society Board, and was a founding member of the Design Student and Alumni Board. Anderson has been supporting students’ transitions from the classroom to the workplace since her own graduation through one-on-one mentoring and network building that have been formalized into our College to Career programming. In honor of her 2015 Alumni Service Award, which she’ll receive later this week, we asked her how mentoring makes a difference for both students and design professionals.
You’ve been mentoring design students for decades. What’s your favorite part of the process?
The best mentor experiences I have had with mentees over the years are driven by being able to work with the mentee to set meaningful goals and expectations for the relationship. As a student and young professional, there are so many opportunities and experiences that fall under the category of you do not know what you do not know! The student’s experience basket is light and it is the opportunity and role of a mentor to help them further feed their curiosity and to explore and develop potential interests. How fun it is to see a student’s eyes light up and hear them say “I did not even know that could be an opportunity for me!”
Does a prospective mentor necessarily need a certain amount of career experience?
Professionals at any point in their career have had experiences that are unique and meaningful to share with a student, and should absolutely consider this wonderful opportunity.
New graduates who I encourage to engage in the program are often concerned that because they are just starting their career, they do not have enough significant experiences to be a mentor. Not true! They have just been through the job search and interview process, they made it through their first day and week at their first job, and they have completed that critical transition from college to career. It often surprises students how difficult this transition can be. What an amazing experience it could be for a student to learn firsthand from someone in that initial stage of their career.
Why do you think design professionals should mentor design students?
I believe mentoring students is one of the most impactful ways a professional can personally share experiences and perspective for students that are aspiring professionals.
We live a very fast paced life. Mentoring a student is an opportunity to listen to a fresh voice, pause, reflect on experiences, and do your best to help a student learn and hopefully further build their curiosity for lifelong learning.