How to start an alumni mentorship program [Guide]

An alumni mentorship program is a great way to both reengage past members of your institution or organization and add more value to your current members. Whether you're in academia, non-profit communities, or organizations, here's how to start an alumni mentorship program.

Saheed Hassan

Published on 

January 12, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

mins read time

The world is full of uncertainties — but a mentor offers clarity. Undergraduates need more insights into the things that happen outside the institution's four walls. That's where an alumni mentor comes in.

An alumni mentor can be a valuable resource for current students of their alma mater, helping them prepare for the outside world and build self-confidence.

A 2021 alumni survey conducted by the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in Supply Chain - Africa (CARISCA) to graduates from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology — concluded that students should be offered more networking opportunities before graduation. 

Over time, most educational institutions worldwide have seen the need for alumni mentoring programs — but are unsure how to begin. 

We have developed a detailed guide to help you kick-start your alumni mentorship program easily. Let's get started.

What is an alumni mentorship program?

An alumni mentorship program involves matching current students or young professionals with alumni of the same institution or organization for the purpose of receiving guidance and support for personal and professional development

The mentorship program aims to provide mentees with:

  • Advice on career decisions
  • Insights into their chosen field of study or profession
  • Access to a professional network
  • Students gain confidence and inspiration to set a course for their future.

Alumni mentors are typically chosen based on their experience and expertise in their field.

Why is it important to have an alumni mentoring program?

A research study shows that an alumni mentoring program benefits not only the mentees but also the institution and mentors

The study found that alumni mentoring programs positively impact students' perceptions of graduate employability, their overall student experience, and their likelihood of wanting to mentor future students. Specifically,

  • 70% of students felt more confident about finding work after participating in the program 
  • 80% felt more equipped to discuss their skill sets
  • 75% of students reported being more satisfied with their experience, and 95% said they were more likely to want to be a mentor in the future. 

The following reasons highlight the importance of an alumni mentoring program.

Improves the soft and technical skills of both the mentor and mentees 

Participation in this program enhances both the soft and technical skills of the mentor and the mentee. 

Mentors improve their management and leadership skills through interactions, while mentees improve their communication, networking, and problem-solving abilities.

Networking and Job opportunities

Mentees benefit from their mentor's industry knowledge and connections, leading to increased job opportunities. 

For example, Garrett Arnold attributes his success in finding a full-time job prior to graduation to the skills he gained through a mentorship program offered by the Arkansas Tech University Alumni Association and ATU Norman Career Services. 

As a member of the ATU Class of 2023, Harry Jacobs, a business data analytics major from Maumelle, states that the best benefits of the program are networking opportunities and career skills development. 

"I'd say the best benefits are the connections you get by networking and developing your career skills with someone who is in the field."

Students gain clarity on their career goals

Working with alumni mentors helps students gain focus and clarity in their career path. Through working with a mentor, students can develop the thought process and focus needed to navigate their professional journey with confidence and resilience. 

This guidance is especially helpful for students who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain about their future. By dedicating just a few hours each week to working with an alumni mentor, students build the skills and foundation necessary to succeed in their chosen fields.

Build lasting relationships

Besides learning and growing professionally, students who participate in an alumni mentorship program have the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships with their mentors. Fryer, one mentee at ATU, makes friends with his mentor during the program. "The mentor is a friend," says Fryer.

The shared experiences, stories, advice, and guidance exchanged during the mentorship create a strong bond beyond the academic setting. 

The special bond that forms between students and alumni mentors can have a lasting impact on both parties.

Improves students' academic performance

A recent study conducted at Al Azhar medical college found that a mentorship program significantly improved the academic performance of first-year medical students. 

The students were divided into small groups and paired with mentors, and the results of a post-program exam showed a significant increase in performance compared to pre-program scores. 

The benefits of the mentorship program were particularly pronounced for female students and those who had previously scored below average on exams.

Two ways to structure an alumni mentoring program

An alumni mentoring program can be structured in two ways: matching alumni with current students or connecting alumni with other alumni

Pair alumni with current students

In this structure, an alumni mentor is matched with a current student or recent graduate to provide guidance and support for a set period. 

This type of mentorship focuses on helping current students reach their personal goals while contributing to the organization's success.

Pair alumni with other alumni

An alumni mentor is matched with other alumni with similar interests and experiences. With this kind of structure, it is easier for alumni with the same experience or at the same level to connect and support one another. 

It also provides networking opportunities that can help alumni stay connected and help them benefit from their peers' knowledge and experience.

No matter what structure you choose for your alumni mentoring program, it is essential to ensure all participants are thoroughly briefed on expectations, guidelines, and policies.

How do I create an alumni mentorship program?

Many organizations are unfamiliar with how to create an alumni mentorship program. However, you are on the right track to creating a profitable platform if you follow these steps. 

Decide what the purpose of the program is

Your alumni mentorship program needs clear mentoring goals and objectives if you want it to be successful. Likewise, stakeholders and participants need to be aware of them.

Although everyone usually has a personal motive for joining a mentorship program, the ultimate aim must align with the expectations of both the mentor and the mentee.  

The aims and objectives of the program must be clear and SMART — that it should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, reliable, and time-bound. 

Create guidelines for who can join

Establishing clear mentorship program guidelines for who is eligible to participate ensures that mentors and mentees get the most out of the program. When determining who joins the program, consider the qualifications and requirements for mentors and mentees.

For mentors, consider requiring that they have graduated from the institution or have first-hand experience in the industry. This will ensure they have the knowledge and expertise to guide their mentees.

For mentees, consider requiring that they be current members or recent graduates of the institution and that they are actively seeking professional advice and are willing to engage with their mentors.

Consider factors such as job level, experience, and areas of expertise when establishing your guidelines — this will help ensure that participants are well-matched during the pairing process and can benefit from each other's knowledge and experience. 

Also, don't forget to consider diversity among your participants to ensure a range of perspectives and experiences.

Prepare and set expectations with your mentors

Setting expectations with your mentors will not only help put the relationship between the alumni and mentees on the right track — but will also ensure the program's success.

To reach their full potential, mentees must clearly communicate their goals and areas for growth and improvement to their mentors at the start and throughout the program.

A mentoring program will be one-sided if the mentors have to make all the decisions. The mentees are expected to come prepared with thoughtful questions and a teachable spirit, while the alumni provide actionable insights and strategies. 

Open and promote registration

Once you have identified and prepared your mentors — and other participants, opening and promoting registration for your alumni mentorship program is next. 

One effective way to do this is by sending an announcement email to all alumni and mentees, informing them about the program and its benefits. 

This can be followed up with additional promotion through social media or other channels that reach your alumni network.

To encourage early registration, inform participants about the opening and closing dates for registration in advance, so they can plan accordingly.

Pair participants intelligently

The pairing of participants in a mentorship program is a crucial factor in its success. Incompatible mentor-mentee pairs can lead to resentment, frustration, and a lack of progress. That's why it's important to take the time to ensure that participants are well-matched.

One way to do this is by using mentorship software that can match participants based on various factors, including their goals, personalities, working styles, work history, hobbies, achievements, strengths, skill sets, needs, and areas of expertise.

This helps to ensure that mentors and mentees are compatible and can benefit from each other's knowledge and experience.

The Together platform is one such tool that offers intelligent participant pairing. Its automated questionnaires and precise matching algorithm ensure that every participant is matched in a way that will lead to a successful and fulfilling mentorship experience. 

Using a tool like this takes the guesswork out of participant pairing and focuses on supporting and nurturing the mentor-mentee relationships.

Support relationships and check-in

Program managers and organizers should prioritize supporting and nurturing the relationships between mentors and mentees throughout the alumni mentorship program. This can be done through regular check-ins, feedback sessions, or other methods that work for your organization.

Establishing a rapport between the alumni and the mentees often takes a while. The connection might be there at the beginning of the program, but trust must be earned as they progress. 

Essentially, you want to foster the relationship between the mentor and the mentees — by attending virtual conferences, reading a book, going on field trips, sharing career experiences, taking mock interviews, and completing a project together. 

We've put together some ideas on finding the right activities to help foster the relationship between mentees and mentors.

Report on success and collect feedback

An effective mentoring program should prioritize getting feedback at every stage of the program. The means of collating reports and feedback should not be limited to only questionnaires — but include survey questions and post-session ratings. 

Anecdotal records should be kept to determine the overall success of the program. The alumni are to report on the learning progress of the mentee at intervals with different metrics. 

Build your mentorship program with Together

Together's mentoring platform helps you connect your alumni with other school members. 

It is tailored to meet the needs of every participant. Our platform provides the tools and resources to help your alumni and mentees get the best out of the relationship.

About the Author

close button