Having given of my skills and time through philanthropic work over the past year, it was thrilling to receive the 2017 PMIEF Community Advancement Award as an Individual Project Manager. I have actually worked with NPower on the Speed Mentoring program since 2012, but have only recently been able to develop and implement a project plan that can be rolled out across the country, serving any number of communities. I have organized this article into the major steps it takes to build a program like this and hope you are able to find some use in your communities.
1. Recruit mentors. As a veteran myself and a longtime member of my Dallas-Fort Worth community, I am involved with many organizations. One of my roles (besides being the FWPMI Chapter President) is to lead the philanthropy team for the Society of Information Management. This role gives me the opportunity to meet with many technology executives and tell them about many great opportunities to give back to our community. They are usually so excited that they reach out to me each time a new calendar event is announced. I would suggest that you schedule your Speed Mentoring event enough in advance to be able to communicate the opportunity for mentors to get involved.
Since our mentors are technology executives, they are usually very busy and highly scheduled, so it’s best to give plenty of notice so they can plan ahead to participate—we usually plan our events six to eight weeks in advance. I also make sure to put an invite on their calendars—you can usually do this through Outlook or even Google Mail or Yahoo in order to provide them with specific instructions on the timing of the event, the dress, the location and any other details they will want at the last minute.
Be sure to remind them to bring plenty of business cards, and also (if possible) send them an electronic resume booklet to review if they have time before the actual event. They can also pay to print it if they so choose (many of our volunteers do, and they write notes and questions throughout).
Also remember to coordinate with the program sponsoring the veterans and find a time that works with their training programs. We work with NPower’s Technology Service Corps here in Dallas; NPower has other offices throughout the United States, so please let me know if I can help you get connected.
You will also want to do a training course for mentors—usually do this the day of, but in plenty of time before the event while serving the executives lunch. Teach them about the veterans program they are supporting, any relevant statistics about hiring veterans, about how the event will work, walk them through the schedule and see if they have any questions.
2. Run the event. Start with a short introduction, and then either introduce the mentors or have them introduce themselves (if there is time). Ring the bell for the first session—you can keep a time running on an overhead projector if that will help the executives stay on their short interview schedules.
Have the right number of tables where each executive can “host” the discussion. The veterans will visit each table and route through meeting all the executives in 10-minute segments, meeting with the host and discussing:
- their resume or CV, and if they’ve been able to translate military terms to business language
- their interests and where there might be connections through the executives’ networks
- general information about the market trends in the areas of the veterans’ interests/experience
Encourage further contact if there is a natural connection between mentor and mentee by connecting on LinkedIn or through additional sessions at their own discretion.
3. Close the event. We usually have 35 to 45 veterans per session, and about 12 to 18 executive hosts. The sessions usually last about two hours, not including the initial training of the executives and lunch. I try to limit surveys since we’re so inundated these days, but I do ask for feedback before I have them sign a form that tracks how many volunteer hours they’ve donated. Our organizations use the volunteer hours as a metric for performance. We take their feedback and are able to constantly and flexibly improve the program over time.
This article was produced in conjunction with ProjectManagement.com as part of the November 2017 Open House. Consider giving back to a nonprofit in your community and applying for the 2018 CAA in the individual, chapter, or corporation/government agency categories.