Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce’s COME project launched cross-cultural mentoring programme EntryPoint in October 2016. The programme aims in connecting and improving interaction between professionals from different fields and international talents in Finland.
In total 92 participants are taking part in the first six-month mentoring period, EntryPoint 2016. Mentors include professionals with broad experience from Finnish working life from private, public and third sector. Mentees are international degree students completing their studies in Finnish higher education institutions. In addition to individual mentor participants, EntryPoint 2016 has four corporate partners, who have committed in sending certain number of their management level employees to act as mentors in the programme.
Construction and development corporation Skanska Ltd. is one of the corporate partners in EntryPoint 2016, and has sent three mentors to the programme, including Head of Business Development and Leasing Jukka Parkkamäki.
– I got a question from company HR department if I wanted to participate, and I was excited as I have been a mentee many times and this is the first time to be a mentor. I have lived abroad and know the challenges of living in a foreign country and culture, and I wanted to give back, Parkkamäki states.
Parkkamäki was paired with Burak Erkan, a civil engineering student at Aalto University. Erkan, who is originally from Turkey, came to Finland six years ago as an Erasmus student, decided to stay and is now completing his Master’s Degree.
– I saw an advertisement of EntryPoint on the career website of the university. I knew the Chamber of Commerce from my home country where it is respected place, and I thought it would be good to join and benefit from having a mentor, Erkan tells.
Mutually beneficial partnership
The main purpose of EntryPoint is to offer both mentor and mentee an opportunity to develop themselves and their communication and management skills. Very often mentoring is understood as a one-way process where more experienced party is in charge and teaches the less experienced one. However, at its best mentoring offers both participants an opportunity to learn, listen and share experiences. In EntryPoint, the pair matching aims, not in connecting two people with identical educational backgrounds and interests, but in connecting two people whose interests and backgrounds complement each other.
As important as it is for mentor and mentee to be open for new experiences and for listening each other, it is also crucial for both mentor and mentee to have realistic and clear expectations on the outcomes. Setting goals and mapping out expectations helps in building mutually beneficial and functioning partnership between mentor and mentee.
– I had maybe two expectations. First see how I develop as a mentor. And the other to learn and understand a new person, new culture, Parkkamäki tells.
All 92 participants of the programme gather together three times throughout the EntryPoint 2016. In addition to collective meetings it is recommended that pairs meet at least five times during the six-month mentoring period. Erkan and Parkkamäki have met at least once a month since October to discuss different topics and issues.
– We started the first meeting by just getting to know each other, where we are from, what we like. Then we set goals, Burak had some ideas and we developed those. The intention is later to connect all Skanska’s mentors and mentees and maybe go for a visit to one of the construction sites. We have established clear goals on what we want to achieve. The path to those goals of course varies and what we discuss in the meetings might change a bit. We keep the goal we established as a way we’re heading, Parkkamäki pictures the way the two have arranged their meetings and hopes for the programme.
There are no predetermined discussion topics or limitations for one-on-one meetings, but mentor and mentee can decide what topics are covered in meetings. All the participants are, however, provided with Mentoring Toolkit that includes guidelines and instructions to help in planning the partnership.
– It’s not a one-way process, it’s for both. Both are responsible for the meetings, both are responsible of driving the meeting and driving the goals. Of course, the mentee is responsible for establishing what he or she wants to gain, but it’s both way responsibility. We are equal in a relationship, we have equal responsibilities to drive towards goals. That’s important to keep in mind, Parkkamäki reminds.
International talents – unused resource
For mentors and also for corporate partners, EntryPoint is also a chance to evaluate and improve their cross-cultural communication and management skills. It gives companies an opportunity to interact and learn from talents with different cultural backgrounds.
– On a big picture, I realized how much potential we are wasting as a country. Talking with Burak, with his broad experience in education, academically and working experience, I realized that we are wasting a lot of potential. We should see international talents as a valuable thing and now we’re not doing it, Parkkamäki states.
– In a way, I have also learned to be open to new ideas. Burak has had many good business ideas, and that made me realise that I think too linear and I need to start rethink. The world is changing so rapidly around me. That has been a big lesson for me.
For mentees, the programme gives an opportunity to learn about Finnish working life and improve for example job seeking skills. Programme is also a way to expand networks and get valuable advice on career planning.
– The programme has benefitted me by meeting with Jukka and other people here. I have already done some things in my life, I have the education, the work experience. But to know how to mix this and put it into CV or how to present yourself. It’s like I have the ingredients to cook something and I was doing an omelette and then Jukka told me that this is a 5-star chef’s dish and how to do it, Erkan pictures the benefits of the programme.
Commit some time – and you will be a lot richer
Participating to EntryPoint is free of charge to all participants and corporate partners. However, certain time commitment is required from mentors and mentees.
– As a mentor when you sign up it’s a commitment you need to do. Everybody’s busy but you need to commit to the time, it’s important. I hope we continue outside this official program, because in the end the key thing is to get to know the people, to connect, and change ideas and learn from each other, Parkkamäki tells.
– I encourage people to join these types of programmes. Working culture is open for these kind of things, and it’s easy to establish a mentor-mentee relationship, because there is no hierarchy in that sense.