5 steps to success with the EAIE Mentorship programme

5 steps to success with the EAIE Mentorship programme

After nearly twenty years working in the field of international education, I decided to join the EAIE Mentorship programme in autumn 2020. This might seem surprisingly late into my career; the decision was for several reasons, but as is so often the case nowadays, COVID-19 was the catalyst. At a time when we all seemed to be facing so many challenges and upheavals in our ‘day jobs’, I wanted to rediscover the sense of being someone who feels they can conquer the world rather than the world being about to conquer them.

Working from home has many advantages but I missed the camaraderie and international fellowship, the serendipitous connections that we are all so fortunate to enjoy when working in this sector. For this reason, as well as a general feeling of wanting to feel inspired afresh, an invitation to join the EAIE Mentorship programme came about at just the right moment, fuelling me with positivity and a renewed passion for hearing about the latest trends in the field of international education. It was especially important for me to learn from other perspectives and positions and to enjoy the time and space for active reflection.

Getting the most as a mentee

I’ve always enjoyed being the student and this opportunity allowed me to remind myself of why I do what I do – to find my ‘why’. Through the programme, I was introduced to a like-minded ‘peer’ (although to me she was, and is, very much the ‘expert’ with many years of experience in academia and the field of Internationalisation at Home.) She has been amazingly generous in sharing knowledge and expertise in the spirit of community and growth. As a result, I feel so privileged to have been given this opportunity. We agreed to share experiences in terms of operational duties, discuss and discern pandemic-related dilemmas and I’ve been encouraged to discover new networks which have helped me communicate the strategic value of internationalisation to key decision makers at my own institution. The experience has pushed me to the next level, enabling me to elevate my professional standards and introducing me to new and diverse perspectives. For instance, being introduced to the Internationalisation in Higher Education for Society (IHES) study helped inform my projects that enable international students to join local societal groups.

Before joining, I didn’t appreciate the degree to which this opportunity would allow me to tap into resources and create invaluable feedback opportunities which, combined, have clarified my goals and long-term ambitions. I feel more motivated and energised than ever before and my confidence has soared as a result of being able to share new insights with colleagues.

For me, the EAIE Mentorship programme was an opportunity to:

1. Find my voice

It provided access to a sounding board, in a safe and confidential environment, to ask questions and seek impartial, objective advice. It was also an opportunity to consider new insights and look at things from a fresh perspective.

2. Lead my career

It helped me to consider my wider career aspirations, my willingness to embrace change and my ability to balance operational duties alongside more strategic project work.

3. Know my worth

Without a doubt, it has improved my self-confidence, enabled me to rediscover a feeling of relevance and has helped me handle the dreaded imposter syndrome which seemed to hunt me down mid-career.

5 simple steps to being a successful mentee.

It is worth the investment of time and effort to gain the most from this programme. Especially in the early days, it’s important to remain focussed and to clearly articulate what you hope to gain from participating. These five steps can help guide your experience.

1. Have a goal

Your time is valuable, as is your mentor’s. Make sure there is a reason you are both committing time to the relationship. Prepare for your meetings and always do any tasks you agreed to complete. Own your goals, be prepared to be held accountable for them and always remain focussed on achieving them.

2. Agree on some ground rules

Decide how often you will meet, the sorts of things you will discuss and be clear on how long the relationship will last.

3. Take feedback graciously

Neither of you will benefit if the session doesn’t push your preconceptions and ideas; be ready to have some open and positive discussions and be receptive to constructive criticism.

4. Listen

Active listening is the most useful tool for both mentor and mentee and will help ensure that the sessions are meaningful and effective. Ask questions that only your mentor can answer about their career and experiences at work.

5. Reflect on the process

Regularly evaluate what you are gaining from the relationship and whether some new aims need to be introduced to the partnership for it to continue to be useful.

From mentee to mentor

Being part of the EAIE Mentorship programme has helped me get to where I need to be resulting in a sense of satisfaction and achievement. It has also inspired me to be of service to others. This year I found myself signing up to be a mentor. I look forward to adopting a different role and learning new skills over the coming months, and I encourage other EAIE members to consider participating!

Laura Spencer
Canterbury Christ Church University, United KingdomLaura is International Development Manager at Canterbury Christ Church University.