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Navigating Careers with Confidence – Reflections on the IDBM Mentoring Program

Finding and building a professional identity can be a complex journey that may seem especially puzzling for IDBMers with interdisciplinary backgrounds and multiple career paths to choose from. To support the exploration process, the IDBM Alumni Association launched a mentoring program in fall of 2023. The program's need was quickly confirmed with the overwhelming interest it received, with 55 participants from all IDBM tracks, spanning the years 2010-2023 and representing 20 nationalities across six countries.

With the first iteration of the program coming to an end, we asked a couple of the program participants to reflect on their experience and share with us.

A screen capture from the mentoring program kick-off meeting


Mutually Rewarding Encounters


Maria, currently enrolled in the IDBM business track, joined the program as a mentee. She feels that the mentoring sessions allowed her to identify her strengths and explore different career opportunities, and she is grateful for how it has contributed to her professional growth. She found conversations with her mentor Laura to be empowering and feels that Laura’s expertise and encouragement have helped her gain a clearer understanding of her career path, as well as the confidence to pursue it with determination. “They say that mentorship is the bridge between where you are and where you want to be, and I couldn't agree more,” she affirms.


Laura (left) with her mentee Maria

Laura, Maria’s mentor and IDBM Arts alumna from the class of 2017, joined the program inspired by her own mentors and role-models and found the experience equally rewarding. Laura’s goal was to listen to her mentee as much as possible and give her space for self-reflection. She wanted to help Maria consider her own goals for the mentoring and wished to support the process mainly by asking good questions. “It has been wonderful to follow Maria’s growth path and how the pieces have ’gradually fallen into their places’ as a part of the mentoring process,” Laura recounts.


Laura finds that in addition to being able to offer her support, mentoring is a good way to develop your competence and ability to lead and support the development of others constructively. “I have also learned a lot from Maria, as she has brought up great observations, points of view, and topics for discussion – it has been useful to take time to consider these observations and reflect on them together,” she continues. On top of all the learnings, Laura was happy about the chance to build a real connection with Maria. “Through the program, I found a fantastic person, who has turned out to be a wonderful mentee, with great abilities for growth, self-reflection, and maturity to receive mentoring,” Laura concludes.

“Through the program, I found a fantastic person, who has turned out to be a wonderful mentee, with great abilities for growth, self-reflection, and maturity to receive mentoring”

Laura, IDBM Arts alumna

A Shared Discovery Process


Viorica, an IDBM Tech alumna from the class of 2014, joined the program as a mentor to share her knowledge and develop her mentoring skills. “For all these years I've been collecting tools, methods, articles, and videos, and I wanted to find an avenue to share them so that others could benefit from them as well.” As she had some extra time on her hands, she took on a couple of mentees at the same time.


Viorica describes herself as result-oriented and someone who gets energized from face-to-face encounters. She drew from her experience in service design and took a proactive approach to setting goals and planning and facilitating the mentoring sessions. She tried different things from workshops to co-working sessions, and instead of just talking about how to get started, she would encourage her mentees to take action and work together – which ended up also motivating herself to work on her personal projects.


"You don't have to have all the answers, just the confidence that you can figure it out together"

Viorica, IDBM Tech alumna

For her, the biggest hurdle to start mentoring was doubts about whether she would have something to offer. “If you haven't done it before it comes with a bit of an impostor syndrome and thoughts about ‘who am I to tell?’” she recounts. Later on, she realized that just like in service design, instead of having ready answers, it’s more important to have the confidence that you can figure things out together – which is also the key to growing and learning. Supporting others pushed her outside of her comfort zone and it was the best way to learn as she also had to do the groundwork herself to be able to share her knowledge.


Viorica, IDBM alumna from the class of 2014, joined the program as a mentor.

In the past, Viorica has herself been inspired by strong mentors that have challenged her way of thinking and pushed her to the limits. However, she realized that at times the right thing to do is to just listen and offer subtle support and guidance. To her, mentoring is about acting as a reflector for your mentee to see themselves and their strengths more clearly. “I'm pretty much just putting a mirror around them like, 'these are your superpowers and you can use them,'” she explains. She found it most rewarding to see the smiles on her mentees’ faces, when they had come to realize something about themselves.

All About Trust


For Viorica, mentoring is all about building a relationship based on trust and she compares it to going to the doctor's. “It’s not just the pills or whatever they give you that help you heal, but the human connection," she says. Thus, she stresses the importance of commitment to the process to build mutual trust, but also encourages aspiring mentors to just give it a go. “If you don’t have the time or you're not in a good place for building that trust then maybe it's not the right time. But if you do have the time, I think at any point in your life you are able to help because there is somebody who most probably is walking the same path you've been on. Just sharing your way of thinking and the type of decisions that led you where you are can inspire others,” she concludes.

Viorica agrees that the somewhat unexpected benefit of mentoring was to really get to know a new person, be inspired by their dreams, and to learn what might be holding them back. “Most of the mentees are younger so it's really nice to see how free their minds are,” she says.

Learnings and Future Plans

Helena, IDBM alumna from the class of 2020, was part of initiating the IDBM Alumni Association as an effort to bridge the gap between current students and alumni. For her, the mentoring program emerged as a natural progression. “As alumni, we knew all too well how confusing it can be to navigate IDBM careers and find one’s place in the job market. Drawing from our experiences, IDBM-specific mentoring was something we wished we would've had access to ourselves but also an ideal way to create connections between current students and IDBM alumni,” she explains.

Helena from the IDBM Alumni Association

The program organisers have been happy to learn about the enriching encounters the IDBM mentoring program has enabled, but also the importance of commitment and building a relationship based on trust was reflected in the feedback for the program. "As expected, the mentoring experiences varied quite a bit due to different factors, such as personal chemistry, clarity of goals, and how much time & effort was put into maintaining the relationship,” Helena recounts. “As organizers, it's tough to accept that but due to the personal nature of these one-to-one relationships, there is always a limit to our insight into the progress. Nevertheless, it's been truly rewarding to hear inspiring stories about how mentoring has helped people both personally & professionally,” she continues.

For Helena, the huge interest in the program was a reminder of the extensive and diverse nature of the IDBM community. She hopes to continue the mentoring program also in the future and would love for it to provide the opportunity for IDBMers to transition from mentees to mentors, and vice versa, depending on their needs & life situations. She thanks all the participants and especially the other organizers for making the mentoring program a reality, and encourages fellow alumni and students to reach out if they wish to contribute to organizing the next iteration of the program.

Author: Jasmin el Kordy


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