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Mentoring at LMU

Career appointments

Munich, 08/24/2012

Growing up without his father Odysseus, Telemachos owed much to his guardian Mentor – an inspiring tutor, advisor and confidant. Students who take part in the many mentoring programs on offer at LMU will also profit from good counsel.

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Maja Giger (28) is relieved to have the services of a mentor: “Nobody in my family ever took a course in business studies, and I knew virtually no one who worked in that area,” she says. Then she met Dr. Dirk Heiss. Heiss runs a consulting firm, advising hospitals and other commercial users of IT systems on data processing. From his own experience, Heiss is well acquainted with the opportunities and obstacles one can encounter in his line of business, and he is happy to give Maja the benefit of his inside knowledge. Her monthly meetings with her mentor are concerned not only with job applications and career choices, but also with a more basic question: “What do people in a consulting firm actually do all day?”

Unlikely Tandems
Maja found her personal advisor through the Mentoring Program offered by Student und Arbeitsmarkt (The Student and the Labor Market), LMU’s Career Service. This Service has been in operation for the past 11 years, and puts students from all Faculties in touch with alumni who have successfully established themselves in their professions, and are prepared to offer advice and support to their budding competitors. The mentors are drawn from all sectors, ranging from freelance journalists to employees of a leading software concern. At present, there are 180 pairings in the Program, many of them made up of people with very different educational backgrounds. Meetings take place in cafes, libraries, or other premises at LMU, at the mentor’s place of business – or even in the lobby of a Munich hotel (the mentor involved in that case worked for the EU). Some mentors recommend practical courses, internships or other trainee programs to their charges, others offer practical advice on preparing for job interviews - or simply provide encouragement and reassurance.

In addition to the multidisciplinary Student und Arbeitsmarkt program, LMU also offers many other mentoring schemes specifically addressed to students of particular subjects. For instance, the list of mentors posted on the website of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine  features a short career profile of each. Among the alumni listed are a racecourse veterinarian, a veterinary surgeon who works for a drug company, and one who has a practice for domestic pets in Australia. The program set up by the Center for Digital Technology and Management not only offers students a choice between male and female professors as mentors, it also assigns a junior staff member to each mentee.

Transmitting Career Know-how
Needless to say, these are not the only disciplines represented at LMU that offer subject-specific mentoring programs. The Faculty of Medicine also has one, for instance. A few years ago, when Drs. Konstantinos Dimitriadis and Philip von der Borch were still students, they realized that the knowledge that every doctor accumulates after qualifying is essentially lost to the University. While on fellowships in the US, the two young physicians familiarized themselves with the American system of mentoring, and decided to import it, with appropriate adaptations to the local environment in Munich. At MeCuM-Mentor , students in the preclinical phase of their medical education can learn from the experiences of more advanced peers, who are in turn mentored by skilled physicians. Philip von der Borch specializes in internal medicine, and has created a webpage specifically for this part of the program, where those interested in helping to train their future colleagues can introduce themselves and their professional profiles.

Yet another mentoring scheme, designed and implemented as part of LMUexcellent , is specifically addressed to promising female academics in all faculties. This program is coordinated by the University’s Women’s Representative Dr. Margit Weber, and its purpose is to help more women to become professors. In each Faculty, an established female professor serves as advisor and role model for program participants in the discipline. Currently, around 250 mentees are enrolled in the scheme. Applications are submitted by the candidates themselves, but professors (of both sexes) may also nominate female colleagues for the program. The selection process is based on an assessment of research performance, as documented by project outlines, grant proposals or publications.

In Homer‘s Odyssey, no less a figure than the goddess Athena sometimes appears to Telemachos in the guise of Mentor, always to give well-meaning advice to her eager pupil. As we know, in the end, Telemachos succeeded in finding his long-lost father Odysseus - and an experienced mentor, whether male or female, can still do a great deal to help one achieve one’s personal goals.

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