About Mentoring: The Ins-and-Outs

Hey everyone! I’m back yet again with another article. This time, we’re talking about mentoring! If you read my previous article, you’ll remember that I listed mentoring as an avenue to find internships and form connections. However, if you were like me, you’d likely be confused about where one can find these mentoring opportunities. Well, fear not, because in this article I’ll be talking about my mentorships and how I managed to find them.

I preface this by saying that I am a psychology major, and some of these opportunities are geared towards that. Additionally, I am in NUS, and any mentoring modules mentioned here might not apply to other universities. However, I would still highly encourage you to go and take up a mentorship — it really is beneficial for you and can help you grow your network.

The Benefits of a Mentor

Before I discuss my experiences with finding mentors, I think it is good to establish why finding a mentor can be important and beneficial. I touched on this in my previous article, but I think it is still good to mention it here.

There are both direct and indirect benefits of having a mentor. Regarding direct benefits, mentors are likely individuals who work in the industry. They might be in an organisation or a company, and are familiar with opportunities for undergraduate students. For example, my current mentor works in Singapore Prison Services (SPS), and she was able to forward me the internship form (plus a reminder about the application deadline) for a summer internship. As a psychology student, I was more than grateful.

Mentors can also inform you about the application process and give you greater insight into what you should expect regarding the workload, the application requirements, the pros and cons of working in that organisation and the culture and feel of the company. All of this can give you greater insight into what to expect when applying, and what to expect should you be accepted. This can also help you evaluate whether the organisation is right for you in the first place.

Do note that mentors and mentees are typically paired based on your indicated interests. When applying for a mentorship program, the form typically will require you to indicate which field you are interested in (e.g. public service, research, etc.) and, at times, your interest (e.g. in prisoners, in youths who are at-risk etc.). The program will then match you to a mentor. Thus, any mentor you are paired with is likely to be in some organisation that is of relevance and interest to you, and any opportunities or advice given are likely to be invaluable.

Another direct benefit is that mentors have likely walked a similar path to you — for example, my mentor was also an NUS undergraduate psychology major. She also did an Honours Thesis, and experienced challenges and struggles similar to mine. Because we share these similar experiences, she was able to forward me opportunities regarding research grants from organisations, which is especially relevant for me.

Regarding indirect benefits, the main ones are networking and connections. In Singapore, it always helps to have connections. This is not a ‘direct’ benefit as it is not something as tangible or concrete as an internship application link. However, by having a mentor, you know one person in the industry. This one person also has links and connections to multiple people (e.g. their colleagues and friends), which you can tap on. I would say that in Singapore, the more people you know, the better it will be for you when applying for internships or jobs. It really does help — for example, I had interned before at MOE, and when I applied for an MOE-related internship, the interviewers were literally my ex-colleagues. It is significantly easier to get a lead when you know people inside the organization. Even if they are not your interviewers, it does help in general.

Finding Mentoring Programs: Google

Now that we have covered the benefits of mentoring, it is time to talk about how to find mentoring programs. The most obvious way — and what I initially did — was to use Google. I literally searched ‘psychology mentoring programs’ and started investigating. Anyone can do this, regardless of your major, and have something show up.

This part will be more relevant for psychology students, but I thought it would be good to mention. When I searched for psychology mentoring programs, I came across SG Psych Stuff. I have linked their website, and you can look at the things they are involved in yourself. I thought it was important to mention this because they offer mentoring for university undergraduate students and JC students interested in the psychology field. So, if you’re a JC student considering psychology, feel free to join! You can connect to someone in the field and learn what psychology really is like in practice, so do monitor their social media for the application deadlines!

Finding Mentoring Programs: University Modules

Another avenue is to take up a mentoring program during university. I’m not sure about other universities, but NUS does offer mentoring programs. For everyone under the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), NUS has a FASS mentorship programme. All information can be found on their website, but generally, the application season starts in July/August. If you are accepted, you will be mentored from January to December in the following year. How frequently you meet with your mentor, and for how long, is generally up to both of you to decide and communicate, so do contact your mentor when possible and check with them.

For all FASS students, one additional benefit of doing this mentorship programme is that you can convert it into a 2MC pass/fail module. I have personally done that — the module is called FAS3551, and all you need to do is submit the following: a LinkedIn profile summary, a report about the industry (based on what your mentor says), and a reflection narrative about your mentorship journey. This is a pass/fail module, so it will not affect your grades. Additionally, it fills up two modular credits for your unrestricted electives.

To be strategic, you can also pair it with another 2MC pass/fail class. This means that instead of taking a class to fulfil four modular credits, you can just take two of these. Why is this a benefit? For those unfamiliar with the university system, let me explain. In order for you to graduate from university, you need to take a certain number of unrestricted electives (i.e. classes unrelated to your major). If you are taking a minor or a double major, those can fulfil the requirements. But if you are taking a single major (like me), you need to find other classes of interest. But every time you take a class, there is a chance that your grades will drop.

So, what to do? One way to preserve your grade is by taking pass/fail modules. These classes don’t give you any grade, and all you need to do is complete the work assigned. It is not like a regular class, where you can get a grade ranging from C to A. It is a binary outcome, where you either pass or fail. This means that you have one less class to stress about. So, in this context, instead of taking a class like history, you can take two of these low-effort pass/fail classes, contribute to your unrestricted elective requirements, and rest assured that there is no ‘A’ to aim for. Do note that a regular class is 4 MCs, which is why I mention that taking two of these classes (of 2MCs each) will replace one regular class.

Advice for Mentoring

Now, my personal advice on mentoring. I think it helps if you know what you want — that way, when you indicate your interests and they pair you with a mentor, you have an idea of what you want out of it. I would say the benefits are perhaps greater when you have a general idea of which field you want to enter, and what you want out of the mentoring. For example, would you like the mentor to help with internship finding, or are you looking for advice regarding job hunting, or would you like more information about their organisation? All of these are different focuses, and knowing what you are focused on can definitely make the questions more targeted.

But for those who don’t know what they want, that’s also alright. I think you can take it as a general exploration into the field, and to just hear a perspective from someone who is actually working. You can also learn more about a field that you might have potential interest in, and maybe gain new perspectives on things you never thought about before.

And that’s all from me! Go enjoy your mentoring journey!

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