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Colleagues offer friendship, mentorship and guidance

Staff throughout UC are tapping into a valuable and underutilized source of guidance and advice for career advancement: fellow employees. Mentorship programs on each campus provide structured support, as well as resources for employees who are interested in initiating informal professional partnerships.

UC Berkeley

One longest-running UC mentorship programs can be found at UC Berkeley, where it has been managed through the Berkeley Staff Assembly (BSA) Career Development Committee since 2004. To date, more than 800 staff have participated in the program.

After mentors are nominated by their colleagues through a campus-wide process, the BSA sponsors a networking event for mentors and mentees to meet. Mentees then schedule at least three informational interviews with potential mentors, after which all participants submit their match preferences. The BSA finalizes the matches, then leaves it to the mentors and mentees to develop a formal contract for their mentoring relationship, including a meeting schedule and terms. Each session lasts 12 months, with a six-month planning period between sessions.

The program provides participants with many resources to maximize the effectiveness of their participation, including presentations on informational interviewing, developing “elevator pitches” and drafting résumés.

Due to the program’s high demand, mentees can only participate one time. Many former mentees continue to give back to the program by joining the all-volunteer Career Development Committee to support their peers with mentorship opportunities.

“The mentorship program has been hands down one of the best things I have experienced since joining Cal,” effused one mentee. “It has boosted my confidence, allowed me to ask questions to an expert who cares about my professional development, and made me feel good about my work. I recommend the program to anyone I can!”

Associate Vice Chancellor for IT and CIO Larry Conrad is among the esteemed mentors who have served in the program. “I benefited greatly from a pair of mentorships earlier in my career, so the Berkeley Mentorship program is a chance for me to ‘pay-it-forward,’” he said in a 2017 article. “It’s also a way to help develop promising talent in the organization and underscore to my management team that this is indeed an important part of their responsibilities as well.”

UC Merced

Founded in 2014, UC Merced’s Career Advancement Mentorship Program (CAMP) is relatively new. It began when the Talent Development team (then Professional Development) first identified a need for mentorship. They partnered with their Staff Assembly to increase engagement and reached out to UC Berkeley for help.

“We knew we couldn’t just copy and paste their program into our campus; we’re smaller and our needs and culture are different,” said Talent Development Programs Manager Yazi Navarro. “But still, it was a great place to start.”

The program runs from July to June each year, during which time it pairs experienced staff with junior employees seeking mentorship and professional guidance. Seasoned staff have an opportunity to share their time-tested knowledge, and junior staff have an opportunity to learn to be future leaders and excel in their chosen field.

Each year’s program begins with a speed networking event, during which mentees have a chance to speak with a variety of mentors to find a relationship that clicks. CAMP leadership then makes official pairings, based on the results, feedback from mentors and mentees and their knowledge of beneficial pairings.

To help ensure that mentees get the most from their mentorship experience, CAMP leadership conducts several workshop-based career development sessions. Mentees complete strength finder assessments, consider how they can benefit from the knowledge of campus leadership, develop a vision and goal for their career paths and more.

Over the past five years, UC Merced’s program has grown from 20 participants to 30, and demand is rising. Many mentors give back year after year – including staff who were once mentees themselves. And, a handful of mentees have come back a few terms, as they continue to grow their careers and seek a new skillset.


Career advancement opportunities abound at UCOP, where the Mentorship Program pairs experienced UCOP established leaders (mentors) from across all departments with developing leaders (mentees) seeking to develop themselves professionally.  The program’s four strategies are to:

  • Create an environment at UCOP that values and supports the essential role of mentoring in employee development
  • Build on past practices and research to create a comprehensive, innovative mentoring program that fosters and advances personal, professional and institutional growth
  • Develop and implement a learning system that supports effective participation in the mentor program for mentors and mentees
  • Create a Mentorship Program Advisory Committee made up of mentors and mentees to guide the development and monitoring of the program

“We have a Mentorship Program Advisory Team made up of past and present mentors, mentees and a post coordinator of the program,” explained UCOP Talent and Organization Development Manager Annie Prozan. “This team provides recommendations using data, input from all stakeholders and their experience. They are the driving force in steering the program towards achieving its vision and goals.”

The UCOP program grows in popularity each year — the 2018-2019 program saw a 200 percent jump in applications. As one mentee reported, “The mentorship program was a great way for me to learn more about UCOP and career opportunities in the organization. I got to meet a range of people that I would not have met otherwise, and my one-on-one work with my mentor helped me end up in a new job at UCOP.”

Another mentee said: “The Mentorship Program is great for those who would like help identifying and thinking through achievable goals, and those who want to be held accountable for making progress towards those goals. For someone who has had a hard time figuring out how to find a mentor, having the opportunity facilitated by OP was invaluable.”

Seeking one’s own way

Another great thing about UC mentorship programs: Mentoring resources are available to benefit all staff. Regardless of your ability to participate in a formal program, there are many opportunities for mentees to learn how to seek guidance from leaders and for seasoned employees to learn to share their wisdom.

Among the suggestions on UC Merced’s suggested reading list, for example, are articles titled “How to Find and Foster Great Mentors” and “5 Questions to Help Your Employees Find Their Inner Purpose.”

“The best part about mentorship programs is that they give all employees a chance to grow their skills while getting to know new colleagues and fostering a spirit of collaboration,” Navarro said.

Read a story about one Merced mentee’s career path, as supported by CAMP.

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