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From Mentoring to e-Mentoring

In the past, the mentoring experience was difficult to achieve for many mentors and mentees that couldn’t set a specific time and place to get together. But, once technology (specifically the Internet) was involved into mentoring, the situation changed; no longer do mentors and mentees have to deal with time and space constraints to share guidance and support. This modality of mentoring is known as e-mentoring or online mentoring.

E-mentoring can be defined as the relationship between an experienced individual that offers guidance to a less experienced person or group (one-to-one, one-to-many, or even in some cases, many-to-many), using Internet tools (email, message boards, chats) to connect and communicate at any time from any place around the world.

This experience is created by at least two participants: e-mentor and e-mentee, the first one being the person giving the support, and the second one being the person receiving it.

E-mentoring is commonly found as part of a program from educational institutions, companies, governments, among others. E-mentors and e-mentees are matched depending on needs and interests of each participant. After the match has been done and the expectations set (e-mentoring program’s policy) participants would start communicating through the Internet (email is frequently used at the beginning of the communication, later on, and depending on the participants, chat, text messages, and message boards could be used).

During the process, e-mentors and e-mentees have responsibilities to keep the experience alive, and the success or failure of it will depend on how much interest and commitment participants put into it.

E-mentors have to keep in mind that they are being taken as models, advice-givers, motivators, knowledge experts and guides by e-mentees. In general, e-mentors need to have a balanced personality, leadership qualities, and computer literacy, as well as being able to,

  • communicate in writing using emails, message boards or chats,
  • help others,
  • enjoy working with other people,
  • transfer, share and receive knowledge and experience,
  • spend time with mentees (answering emails, participating in chat sessions),
  • build a relationship over time, and
  • respect others.

On the other hand, e-mentees are usually students, new employees, workers, young people, or anyone who wants to work with another person (supervisor, teachers, professionals, subject matter experts) to achieve goals, to receive guidance on a specific topic, and to learn from others' experiences. E-mentees have to,

  • be open to advice, support and guidance;
  • make requests to e-mentors;
  • respond to messages; and
  • take an active role through the whole process.

E-mentees should remember that the process is focused on their needs and interests and it is being done specifically for them.

E-Mentoring gives to e-mentors rewarding experiences and the satisfaction of being able to help others, and to e-mentees the benefits of receiving knowledge from a dedicated person. The following table outlines some of the benefits from participating in this process.

Benefits for E-mentors Benefits for E-mentees
  • developing relationships with e-mentees;
  • contributing to someone’s development;
  • developing leadership skills;
  • reflecting upon his/ her own career;
  • sharing experience and knowledge; and
  • discovering new ways of thinking.
  • deciding about career path;
  • getting new ideas;
  • work experience;
  • life experience;
  • increasing knowledge;
  • developing and stimulating critical thinking; and
  • receiving knowledge, wisdom, support and advice.

It is important to remember that regardless of the number of people involved, the e-mentoring relationship is based on trust, encouragement, openness, eagerness to learn and share, and the most essential: respect.