Matching is a central piece of your program. It needs to be done with consideration for what your participants need and expect, but any of these systems can create effective matches between mentors and mentees. Each of these matching systems can be paired with any of the mentorship structures, but some structures may be suited to different matching systems. Any of these systems can be done manually, with software, or a mix of the two.
Ultimately, the degree and specificity of your matches will depend on the size of your program. If you have a half dozen mentors to match with a half dozen mentees, you can review their applications, experience, and goals and match them as best you can within a smaller pool of participants. If you have a larger pool of participants, you will be able to fine-tune your matches and with more attention to goals, professional field, and other characteristics.
Creating a good mentoring match does not necessarily require a perfect alignment. Mentors with experience in a different field of work can still offer good advice about finding or maintaining a job. You don’t need to have a large program or set up perfect matches to run an effective mentorship program.
There are a variety of mentorship software programs that you can use to support your matching and reporting systems. These programs can be helpful, especially for larger programs. But they can be costly. Having a system with a questionnaire and a spreadsheet to match your mentors and mentees can be a good place to start.
With self-selection matching, you set up a pool of screened mentors and mentees, provide them with information about potential matches, and provide a forum for them to meet. Then participants can make the match choice themselves. It can reduce the work your team does to make matches but still requires a process to vet participants and gather information about them. The information can be provided through a software program or through networking events where potential matches can be introduced to each other.
Self-selection works best when:
Skill matching focuses on what mentees need to learn and pairs them with mentors who can teach or advise them about those particular skills. The mentoring relationship does not need to be strictly about skill transfer, but it will provide a key element to the relationship. Use skill match when your mentees want to be matched with a mentor who has more experience in a skill or professional field.
Skill match works best when:
Subject Matter Expert (SME) rotation works like a skill match, except mentees are matched with a series of mentors who each have a specific area of expertise to share. Often they each have a different area of expertise that mentees need. This matching system works well for mentees’ skill enhancement, but it sacrifices the benefits of a longer-lasting relationship between the mentor and mentee.
SME rotation works best when:
Random matches do not use interviews or assessments to match mentors and mentees. This can save resources for your organization. While it will not work in all situations, if your mentors have common goals (such as a job search) and all mentors are able to assist with these goals, random matching can be successful.
Random works best when:
No matter how hard you try, there will be times when matches do not work out. Provide mentors and mentees with a clear method of communication with program administrators, so either participant can come to you for help with setting the mentoring relationship back on track or finding a new match.
Want to know more? Administering a matching system is discussed in more depth in our Bootcamps and Community calls.