September 2023

Promoting careers with mentoring: Trust and openness are the common thread

It’s often lamented that women don’t have the same doors and networks open to them in the professional world as men. This criticism is not entirely unfounded when viewed in the light of day; classic career-promoting networks such as student associations with influential old men simply do not exist for women in Germany.

Against this background, but also in general, I believe that personal commitment is all the more important! Anyone who wants career networks should always ask themselves how they themselves can establish networks and share experiences. That’s why in 2022/2023 I volunteered for the third time as a mentor at my former university, the Technical University of Munich. As we all know, networks only hurt those who don’t have one. So it’s high time to get active yourself!

What’s behind it: TUM Mentoring

The background is quickly explained: TUM alumni support students and TUM graduates with their study and professional experience and provide tips for their careers. In this mentoring round, Jule Schneider, currently project manager for sustainability in a Munich start-up, and I had come together as mentee and mentor.

We already had the first thing in common with our university. In mentoring, in addition to a professional basis, it is also important that mentee and mentor are not in a relationship of dependence on each other. For example, they should not be boss and employee, because in such a case it might be difficult to address every topic without bias.

Trust leads

One thing has given our mentoring relationship the necessary depth and effectiveness: Trust. After we got to know each other better, we were able to talk openly about both professional and private matters. Especially in professional life, there are often worries, fears and even taboo topics, such as salaries. For mentoring to be worthwhile and have a lasting effect, however, it should be possible to talk about precisely such supposedly sensitive topics. And for that to happen, there has to be a basis of trust on both sides.

During our mentoring session, Jule had been thinking about changing jobs and shared her thoughts on the subject with me. I was able to give her some tips that my professional experience had taught me, for example about factors such as working hours, corporate culture, and opportunities for further training.

But trust also has to do with confidentiality. It must be clear to both parties that a basis of trust in mentoring also requires confidentiality so that you can actually open up to a person who is initially still a stranger. This had worked smoothly between Jule and me.

Teaching and learning: As a mentor, you can do both

As Jule revealed, my advice for job interviews was particularly helpful to her because, after all, it was also acutely needed. Thanks to my many years of experience in large corporations, I was able to teach her a lot about the dynamics of such corporate structures.

But I also learned a lot of new things myself! Anyone who believes that the mentor is sacrificing their own valuable time for a good cause and merely passing on their own knowledge is mistaken. Successful mentoring is an exchange in the most positive sense, because ultimately it is about mutual benefit and inspiration.

I was also able to benefit from mentoring with Jule, because thanks to her I gained highly exciting insights into the start-up world and the forms of communication there. I was also able to learn from her what motivates young professionals and what they look for in an employer. In this way, I was able to learn new things about the job market from the employee’s perspective.

Becoming a role model

My conclusion after this third round of mentoring for me: I would do it again any time! Jule and I harmonized perfectly both professionally and personally, which is of course the ideal case. It was important for her to find a female role model outside her professional environment with whom trusting exchange was possible. I also gained completely new perceptions and really enjoyed the direct exchange with a young professional from the start-up world.

For anyone who would like someone to accompany them for part of their career path, I can only advise: Become a role model and a mentor yourself! It is impossible to overestimate what mentoring can achieve – for both sides.

Here you can find more information in German about the mentoring program at TU Munich: Mentoring – TUM Community