How and Why to Work Mentoring into your Educational Repertoire


Iterative learning is the process in building on learning constructs from the ground up through experience, while regularly adding experiential knowledge into the learning cycle. 

Just like when we started to learn when we were young, we still start the learning process as adults with small pieces and apply or practice those to inform on future learning.  It got me to thinking about how professional learning occurs nowadays, when time away from family or the job is at a premium. Due to this constraint, we are somewhat forced to regularly pay large sums for intensive courses or workshops in order to obtain a certificate that describes new found expertise. We’re in and we’re out; and, while there are definitely situations that produce great results through this type of learning, it’s not always the most appropriate option. For instance, taking a deep-dive course on how to become a professional in something is very different than taking a deep-dive course in specializing in certain aspects of that same profession after several years work. The former inundates potential practitioners with everything they need to know without the context. The latter brings years of experiential learning as contextual input into the specialization process. As I’ve mentored many individuals, I’ve heard over and over about courses and classes that promise certification, resume experience updates, new skills, etc., but deliver only fractions of the total promise. 

The other thing that can be problematic for some students is that courses are built for mass delivery to a an audience that possesses a fairly consistent level of knowledge. It’s a simple business decision in controlling costs, as it’s not reasonable to customize a course for every student. Those that fall below the knowledge bell curve get lost while those who know too much get bored. The average class population benefits though. 

Where Can Mentoring Replace Traditional Education?

In short, it can’t; except in very specific circumstances. Mentoring should be viewed as a compliment (see below) to standard methods of education, e.g., college, post-graduate and/or professional courses, certification courses, etc. through enhancement of the learning process via additional professional dialog and guidance. Situations in which professionals are not learning specific skills but rather seeking to work though obstacles or handle specific situational factors, mentoring may provide the most direct and rapid results.

Where Can Mentoring Compliment Traditional Education?

Mentoring sessions are built around dialog and practical application of learnings. Students that find it difficult to make sense of large volumes of information disseminated in a short time frame or lacking experiential context can normally find benefit to mentoring. The mentee is able to deconstruct the learnings with the mentor and obtain experience-guided context and advice for practical application from the mentor. This serves to bolster the knowledge already obtained and make it more useful and easier to apply. Typically, short-term mentoring is used to manage immediate needs.

However, this scenario presents itself also for those entering a profession anew. These individuals are students to both skill building courses and tangential learning through mentoring, but it occurs over a longer period of time in order to weave both types of learning together. So, mentoring may take the form of long-standing, regular sessions or short bursts of standing sessions.

Money vs Value When it Comes to Education Decisions

Just like anything else, we each assess what we are going to get when we pay for something. When making decisions about how you wish to spend your education dollars, consider some things with the following sample models. 

The Pay Up-Front Model

  • Non-Financial Considerations
    • Immediate and intense knowledge gain with early high value
    • Course content is created for the average student, not targeted toward individual needs 
    • Content becomes increasingly obsolete over time (esp technology)
    • Limited use of learned information produces minimal benefit and can even degrade value as information is not retained as a result of practice
    • Minimal utilization of learned information almost immediately degrades value as information is not retained as a result of practice
  • Financial Considerations
    • An initial investment to take a course costing $2000 produces high immediate knowledge gained
      • Regular use of learned information reinforces and expands knowledge obtained
        • ROI peaks early, then diminishes over time as environmental changes can degrade value (esp. technology)
      • An increase in time OR a decrease in utilization yields LOWER ROI

The Pay-as-You-Learn Model

  • Non-Financial Considerations
    • Low to moderate immediate knowledge with early high value. Knowledge builds, value remains moderate to high
    • No content is created for the average student, everything is targeted toward individual needs 
    • Learnings, if practiced and applied, build over time
    • Learnings are reinforced with experiences and expert guidance to accelerate new lessons
    • Value is obtained through application and applies to tangible skill and behavioral gains
    • Limited use of learned information produces minimal benefit and can even degrade both non-financial and financial value as information is not retained as a result of practice
    • Minimal utilization of learned information almost immediately degrades financial value, and slowly for non-financial value) as information is not retained as a result of practice
  • Financial Considerations
    • An initial investment to engage a mentor costs @$100. Subsequent monthly costs also equal @$100, for a total investment of @$1200.  
    • Produces foundational knowledge that is built upon over time
      • Regular use of learned information reinforces and expands knowledge obtained
        • Value against investment may be measure ROI incrementally 
        • ROI Peaks early, plateaus, and then increases proportionally to effort
      • An increase in time ONLY decreases ROI if lessons are not utilized, typically
        • There is a much lower level of technical learning and higher level of behavioral learning

*Numerical data is for illustrative purposes only

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail