How does mentoring affect us as arts and cultural workers?

Read time: 5 min

Five NoVA students participated in the Aalto University Mentoring Programme during the academic year 2019-2020. After finishing the programme the three of them, Anni Rupponen, Vivita Kaupere and Joanna Wong discussed about, how does mentoring affect us as arts and cultural workers. Anni had two mentors in the programme from Tuska festival and Amos Rex art museum. Joanna’s mentor comes Culture Centre Caisa and Vivi’s mentor works in Design Museum. Mentoring was seen as an opportunity to reflect your own career, widen you perspectives, and strengthen meaningful future networks.

What were your motives to participate to the Aalto University Mentoring Programme?

Anni: I wanted to find a mentor for many years but somehow finding a time for that has been difficult. The Aalto University Mentoring Programme gave a ready made framework that supported building a mentoring relationship with my mentors. I found my mentors myself, from the two different fields of festival production and museum’s audience outreach work. I am so grateful that I found mentors, two experts in their fields, who were willing to share openly  their experiences and tips for developing your career. I have earlier experience from professional sparring so I wanted to also see how mentoring differs from that.

Vivita: I chose to participate in the mentoring programme because I wanted to have new insights in the arts and culture field in Helsinki. I was looking forward to extending my network and sharing fruitful discussions with an experienced person. The mentoring programme provided me a new specific knowledge that I didn’t earlier have access to. All in all, I have had a similar mentoring experiences before and I knew that this kind of setting for meeting with people – out of academic realm and in friendly relations – will be awesome. 

Joanna: I was quite hesitant at first because I didn’t have a clear objective about being a mentee. I talked with some friends casually about what are their experiences from mentoring. They were joining the programme too and told me that it would enlarge you social circle and you may even get new friends. It sound great to me, so why not to give a try.

How to find a relevant mentor for you?

Anni: We need platforms that connect people, not only online but in live events too. I see a great potential for cultural exchange in mentoring. My advice is to ask a person to become your mentor whose career you admire or you don’t have any idea about. Making clear your own professional development needs and goals already in the beginning of the mentoring relationship makes it easier for a mentor to share relevant experiences with you. You may have needs that need mentors with a different competences. You have time to have dozens of mentors in your life, but you need to start with someone.

Vivita: It is important to find a mentor with the same interest area, but we don’t need to limit our searches. For example, I was looking forward to getting familiar with arts education practices and opportunities in Finland, but also I was interested in educational curating in museums. With the help of mentoring programme I have found an amazing mentor and we will continue our meetings after the Aalto University Mentoring Programme and COVID-19 lockdown. My current mentor is working in a museum and her mind colourfully covers areas within the setting of museums and in the same way reaches beyond. She shares the same interests in cultural diversity and inclusion that are relevant to my thesis study, and because of that, she provided me with different perspectives on the topic.

Joanna: I didn’t look for a mentor by myself. I got a match from the mentoring programme.

How are you going to share your expertise through mentoring processes?

Anni: My first mentee experiences were great. I was usually super exhausted when meeting my mentors after a long day at the university. Always after meetings my head burst ideas and I felt very inspired and grateful that I went for the meeting. The one feedback from my another mentor “it was refreshing to hear how different people think about different things” was very meaningful for me. Our conversation didn’t only made me think in a new way but also challenged my mentor to critically view her own thinking.

It would be optimal to start to do mentoring myself after pursuing a career for few years after the university. I think there is not right or wrong time to start mentoring relationships, but there are opportunities that life brings in front of us. The only thing is that are we able to see these opportunities and be open for new processes in your lives. 

Vivita: I think it is an awesome opportunity to have a person to talk to and share your expertise with. Being on both sides – as a mentor or a mentee – can be beneficial. When we actively listen others, we will learn from them as well!

Joanna: I haven’t had the chance to share my expertise through mentoring yet, unfortunately. I was supposed to start meeting regularly with my mentor in March but it postponed because of outbreak of Coronavirus. However, my mentor tried her best to share her expertise with me by inviting me to her workplace to meet with her colleagues, to see the exhibition and watch the performance organized in her workplace. She also hosted the excursion for NoVA course 2018-2020. 

I haven’t thought about being a mentor myself because I feel that I am not qualified to do that yet. Maybe one day I will, when I become an expert in the field of arts and culture in Finland.

What mentoring in the field of arts and culture will be like in the future?

Anni: I see that more and more people will share their experiences and expertise through mentoring relationship – either in the role of a mentor or a mentee. I think that being simultaneously both a mentor and a mentee would be the most beneficial situation for the people working in the field of arts and culture. I hope that people search mentors also outside of their own interest areas to widen their perspectives and growing their networks. I could see myself having very interesting conversations with a film production designer, a cellist, or a VR event producer. In my opinion we can benefit a lot from better understanding our colleagues in the whole field of arts and culture, also outside of our own specialisation.

Vivita: I hope it will shape the form of my experience in this process. I think it has to be personal experience, shared between a mentor and a mentee. This experience has to be based on a real life conversations and situations. Personal contact (face-to-face or as online meetings) is the key.

Joanna: It’s a thoughtful question. I am expecting more and more young immigrant professionals joining the arts and culture field in Finland and becoming mentors due to globalisation. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, I have realised the importance of digital and online tools. I foresee more online interactions or the creation of online materials in the future.  

Images can be a great discussion triggers when you meet your 
mentor for the first time.

Photos: Jaeseong Park           

Aalto University Mentoring Programme

Aalto University Mentoring Programme is a university wide interdisciplinary programme for Aalto alumni and students. It emphasises an open dialogue to share experiences, knowledge and skills. While alumni may develop their sparring skills, student will get help in considering their career options and finding their own strengths. Student mentoring focuses on providing students the opportunity to discuss their wishes and dreams for their careers, studies and life together with experienced mentors. The programme is administered by Partnerships and corporate collaboration department at Aalto University. Read more about the Aalto University Mentoring Programme.

 Illustration: Aalto University Mentoring Programme


Psst! The application for the mentoring season 2020-2021 is open from 1 April to 10 May 2020!

Work life mentoring competences pilot course
at Aalto University

Aalto Teaching Lab run the pilot course Työelämän mentorointi osaamisen 2 ECTS (Work life mentoring competencs in English) in the academic year 2019-2020. The pilot course collaborated with the local high schools and Nuori Yrittäjyys (NY), which is an entrepreneurship program for youth in Finland. In the course university students became a mentor for a group of high school students (2-9 persons). The length of mentoring process was a half year.  

NoVA student Anni Rupponen participated the course and worked as the mentor for the two first year high school students processing their personal growth and the business idea related to wellbeing services. “This course was a great learning experience including the top-off lecturers, versatile peer-learning exercises, the own mentoring process with the youth, and a continuous critical self-reflection. The youth have interesting business ideas which allow us, future educators, to better understand how youth situate themselves in the changing and globalizing world.” describes Anni her experiences from the course. 

Written by Anni Rupponen, Joanna Wong and Vivita Kaupere
NoVA students from Aalto University

How does mentoring affect us as arts and cultural workers?

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