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Improving Soft Skills Through Mentorship

University mentorship programs that tap into alumni expertise produce benefits for students, mentors, employers, and the school itself.

Graduates of accredited engineering programs are typically academically capable, displaying technical prowess and problem-solving skills. Academic achievers, however, may lack valuable soft skills that aid career success and development. Soft skills are personal attributes or behaviors that enable us to interact effectively with others.

Universities can enhance graduate career opportunities by closing the soft skills gap through an active and comprehensive alumni/student mentoring program. Student participants in mentoring programs are more likely to graduate with a job than students who do not participate in such programs (1). The primary purpose of mentoring is to acquaint students with the need for soft skills and help them hone their skills before entering the workforce.

Alumni/student mentoring programs benefit the student mentee, industry, and university (Figure 1). While students benefit from enhanced career development, industry can select from a pool of more skilled potential employees. Colleges and universities also benefit, explain M. Renuga and S. Ezhilan: “Frequently, alumni want to become involved in activities that further promote and serve their alma mater, and being a mentor allows them to become involved” (2).


Figure 1. Alumni/student mentorship programs have benefits that extend well beyond the career development of the mentee; industry and the university also reap rewards.

This article covers ten soft skill areas: communication, résumé development, interviewing, leadership, cultural aptitude, performance reviews, conflict resolution, networking, negotiating, and career planning. While this list is not exhaustive, it encompasses the skills that hiring managers, industry leaders, and operational executives desire. An example of one effective mentoring approach illustrates the format, frequency, topics, roles, and other program aspects for those interested in launching a mentoring program at their institution...

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