Boren Mentorship Program

Audio file
Podcast Transcript


Shabnam:   Welcome to the Boren Around the World podcast, a podcast by the National Security Education Program for Boren awardees, language lovers and public service enthusiasts. In this minisode, we will be discussing the Boren mentorship program as a whole, what it is and how to get involved. The program is open to all NSEP award recipients including Boren Scholars, Fellows and EHLS scholars. In this minisode we will go over program eligibility, goals of the program, and what to expect for those of you who want to join this community! I'm here with my colleagues Jane and Tom who are currently managing the program this year. Thank you both for joining us!

Jane:          Absolutely Shabnam!

Tom:           Thank you, this is amazing.

Shabnam:   To start us off, could you explain in general what mentorship program is, how it came to be, and how it operates?

Tom:            Amazing. So, the Boren mentorship program was first launched actually in 2016, as a way to connect NSEP award recipients who had not yet completed their service requirement with members of the alumni community who could support them in their professional journey. So, it's grown a lot since then, and Jane and I recently just matched somewhere around 83 mentees and mentors for this year's program.

Jane:          Currently the program operates within a six-month time frame, so sometime in March applications are sent out via email, and if you're and NSEP award recipient who is in good standing with the NSEP office, you can apply to participate as either a mentor or a mentee, then the program runs from April to September. There are some eligibility criteria however that are important to note.

For alumni applying to be mentors, we prefer that you have at least five years of experience in one or more areas of federal service or related contracting work, however we will consider your application if you have three to five years of experience too. So NSEP also considers past mentors to join again, so we encourage you to apply if you've already done the program.

Those that are applying is a mentee need to have received their NSEP award at least one year prior to the program and be in good standing with the NSEP office. So, for example, this year in 2020, we couldn't accept 2019 awardees, but we look forward to reading your applications next year! Awardees who have commenced their job search independently prior to the start of the mentorship program application period are also given preference.

If somebody has previously participated in the mentorship program as a mentee, they are ineligible to participate again, but could qualify as a mentor in the future. Similarly, if someone previously applied to be a mentee, and they not selected, they’re definitely eligible to reapply in the next program cycle. Also, you don't have to be in DC to participate in the mentorship program, but if you prefer a mentor who is geographically in the same region as you make sure to indicate that on your application and we'll do our best to accommodate that as well.

Tom:           Yeah exactly. This year as many of you will know, we’re kind of in the zany wacky alternate dimension that is Covid-19 so unfortunately, we have had most people meeting virtually for the time being, so face-to-face is not really an option. In terms of matching, we get a lot of applicants each year, and we really do try our best to match everyone, both mentors and mentees based on their applications and specific preferences that they note in their applications.

Shabnam:   What are some of the objectives of the mentorship program? For example, overall, what can a mentee expect to get out of the six-month mentorship program?

Tom:           Right. So, there are three main goals of the program, the first one is networking. So, we connect mentees with mentors from across a number of states and countries, serving in the federal government from a diverse range of agencies. Mentors volunteer their time to support mentees and furthering their own specific professional goals.

The second main goal is establishing goal setting, we have a lot of mentions of goals here. The second main goal is goal setting and planning.  So, mentors help mentees set realistic professional goals and plan productive steps towards achieving these goals in the six-month period.

The last goal of the program is to help mentees broaden their understanding of the NSEP service opportunity and types of qualifying services. Mentors provide insight into federal agencies and positions that mentees may not have considered before and share how they fulfilled their service requirement through different avenues. With that being said, we expect mentees to establish reasonable and concrete goals for what they want to accomplish over the six-month program. Additionally, we expect mentees to proactively communicate in a timely manner with their mentor while also being courteous to their mentors time, after all they are volunteering their time.

Shabnam:   You mentioned goals a lot there Tom, but what are some goals that mentees have set in the past?

Jane:          While some mentees have goals in developing their networking skills or practicing interview techniques, some have goals around improving interpersonal communication, or how to polish their job applications, it's a wide range of things and what exactly are Dementors has responsibilities or expectations and all of this.

Shabnam:   And what exactly are the mentors’ responsibilities or expectations in all of this?

Jane:          Well mentors can meet with their mentees either in person or virtually, but like we said, we’re just leaving virtually for the time being, but they will have to dedicate a reasonable amount of time to their mentees. Mentors don't have to provide mentees with contacts of job prospects as part of the program, but they may provide guidance, give advice, or become accountability partners to mentees based on the goals set at the beginning of the program. Mentors may also challenge or push mentees to step outside of their comfort zone to help them meet their professional goals, whether that be networking more, asking for business cards, or even negotiating salaries.

Shabnam:   How does NSEP facilitate these relationships?

Tom:           So, NSEP matches mentees with mentors based off of several things, including career interest, study interests, federal agencies that they're interested in, goals location, etc. It can be really hard to match, and we can't guarantee that mentees will be perfectly matched with a mentor, meeting all of their criteria, but mentor’s availability and skill sets are also a huge factor in matching. We’re also here to answer questions about the program, provide worksheets and resources for the 6-month program for mentors and mentees to work off of as they set their goals and we also send out newsletters and additional resources throughout the 6-month program.

Shabnam:   Thank you Jane and Tom for explaining this so thoroughly. Is there anything else that you would like awardees to know more about the program?

Tom:           Yes, absolutely. So the real question that you’re all probably asking is what does a participant feel about the program? So actually one mentee from last year said and I quote “I ended up getting two job offers during this period for positions in the DoD so that was great my mentors advice about interviewing was helpful and being able to talk through interviewing was good for my nerves” so if you or any of the other seven to eight million people on this planet that loathe interviews, I think that maybe this is just one way that you can better improve your ability to perform in interviews, and frankly that's reflects on how people feel about the program, which is over all very positively. Mentors have reported similar success with their mentees who have received internships and interviews, conditional offers and some have even received passing grades on the Foreign Service Oral assessment with the help of their mentors.

Shabnam:   It's really refreshing to hear, and you both have been working really hard on the success of this program, so thank you for your effort and thank you for your time. The mentorship application will open again in March 2021, and we look forward to seeing more applications You’ve been listening to the Boren Around the World podcast. If you haven't yet, go to Spotify to subscribe, rate and view this podcast. If you're interested in participating in the podcast, email [email protected] with “Boren Podcast” in your subject line. Thank you for listening!

Have you recently returned from your NSEP funded study and are in search of a mentor for support? Are you an Alumnus who wants to support recent awardees in their professional growth? Look no further!