By Shabana Begum
Students can now receive first-hand career advice from NTU alumni working in jobs related to their field of study, thanks to a new mentorship programme.
The NTU ConnectingMinds Programme, a new initiative launched last month by the NTU Career & Attachment Office (CAO), allows undergraduates to reach out to alumni and industry professionals via an online platform.
“With their career and life experiences, our alumni can guide students with their aspirations and provide them with realistic insights about various industries,” said Mr Ivan Choong, assistant director of CAO.
The programme was launched on 1 Feb, the first day of the NTU Career Fair. Response so far has been overwhelming, with over 600 students and 120 mentors signing up within the first month.
Students can visit the NTU ConnectingMinds portal and register as mentees with their NTU credentials.
They can use the portal’s search filter to find mentors who graduated from the same school or who are working in their preferred industries; these mentors will then be alerted to their connection requests via email.
Once mentees have identified their career goals, they will work on an action plan with their mentors for about three months, to help them obtain skills and coach them in areas that they need to work on, so that they will be industry-ready before they graduate.
CAO believes mentorship can allow students to get advice on career and work-life balance.
“We realised that mentorship is an important phase in everyone’s career. Hence, we decided to introduce this (programme) earlier to students,” said Mr Choong, who also leads the ConnectingMinds Programme.
“As we have a huge student population of 33,000 students in NTU, CAO would like to leverage on our very own alumni as well as industry partners to provide more personalised career advice to all students.”
NTU ConnectingMinds is not the first mentorship programme by CAO. Mentor-Link, a programme introduced in 2003, matched registered alumni mentors with students who requested for mentors from a specific industry or company via an online request form.
Mentor-Link required CAO staff to manually scroll through a database of alumni mentors to find a suitable mentor for every student. It will be discontinued at a further date.
Playing to one’s strengths
The website for the NTU ConnectingMinds programme was created by JobKred, a local startup founded by two NTU alumni, that uses data analytics to help job seekers look for positions based on their skills and for companies to find suitable hires.
On top of connecting students with alumni, the platform will soon provide a free customised skills profiling report for all users, said Mr Choong.
After completing a 40-minute questionnaire, the system will use data analysis and Artificial Intelligence to churn out a personalised report that lists the skills that students possess, and lack, for their preferred jobs.
Students can use the information from the report to find suitable mentors. Mentees and mentors can access the questionnaire within the next one or two months.
“If students were to take this test externally, it would cost them quite an amount. CAO chose JobKred partly because of this unique feature and we will be paying for this skills profiling report as we find it useful for our students,” added Mr Chong.
Nanyang Business School (NBS) alumnus Mr Ong Shen Kwang, 25, who graduated in 2016, signed up to be a mentor because he wanted to contribute back to the university.
Mr Ong was offered an internship at OCBC Bank in a position outside of his area of study during his second year. He accepted it upon seeking the advice of a member of the CAO Internship Division.
During his final year, the bank hired him for a full-time position under the OCBC Young Bankers Graduate Programme.
Mr Ong is currently mentoring four NTU students, whom he meets over dinner every few weeks. He frequently connects with them through a WhatsApp group chat.
“I’m very happy when my juniors talk to me. I like to find out what skills and values I can impart to them.”
Mr Ong said the NTU ConnectingMinds Programme is most valuable for first and second-year students since they can start planning and deciding on their career paths early on.
“Year One students may have doubts about which career path they should embark on in the future. I feel that one of the crucial roles of a mentor is to guide them and help them work towards where they want to head to by the end of their university life,” Mr Ong said.
Early career planning will prevent job-hopping and allow individuals to ascend the corporate
ladder faster, he added.
Another mentor, Mr Andy Koh, said students must ask good questions for the mentorship to be productive and efficient.
Mr Koh, a 36-year-old NBS alumnus said students need to be more specific when communicating their motivations and goals. This will help mentors dispense relevant advice that will help them.
A warm welcome
Students who signed up to be mentees welcomed the programme.
“While I attend career talks and networking sessions, those events are impersonal. Having a mentor would allow me to form meaningful relationships with professionals who are eager to share their life experiences and career paths,” said Zachary Chin, 22, a second-year student from NBS.
Shahnas Farveen, a second-year student from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, agrees that the relational aspect of mentorship is important.
She said: “When I attend industry talks, employers will tell us the same information about their companies. It would be good if my mentor gives insights about the reality of the workplace.”
Chin, who believes NTU alumni are assets and resources for current students, added: “It would be great if every NTU student were paired with a mentor.”