“I consider it a great opportunity, since we can meet people in the field we want to work in,” said Monika Kochajdová, an international relations student at the University of Economics in Bratislava, about the Mentor Network Program event which she attended in late May in Bratislava.
Organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Slovakia, the US Embassy in Slovakia, and CSI Leasing for 10 years, the programme has already arranged the meetings of around 800 students with business leaders, with the aim of helping them with their future career.
Learning from the USA
The tradition of business mentoring comes from the USA, where Martin Kardoš, executive director of CSI Leasing and founder of the programme in Slovakia, encountered it for the first time during his studies.
“I saw how it works and the impact it can have on a student’s life,” Kardoš told The Slovak Spectator. He got his job thanks to his mentor, he added.
After his return to Slovakia, he decided to launch a similar programme here, so he came up with a proposal and addressed AmCham and the US Embassy. Both welcomed the idea. The initiative has already spread to Košice, where a similar event has been held for seven years.
The event’s organisers say that interest in mentoring programmes is increasing, from both students and business leaders.
“Through this programme we create the opportunity for the leadership of our member companies to interact with young Slovak students and offer them the opportunity to meet, talk and share experiences,” Jake Slegers, executive director of AmCham in Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.
Students generally ask about careers
The programme is also beneficial for students since it gives them the information and first-hand experience to interact with the CEOs and managers of the participating companies, Slegers added.
For Martin Homola, a fresh graduate from the Faculty of Business Management at the University of Economics in Bratislava, the main reason for attending the event in Bratislava was to meet new people and gain some inspiration from their business stories. It was the second time he had participated in the programme.
“Two years ago I met interesting people and even received tips for some internships and development programmes,” Homola told The Slovak Spectator. Thanks to these tips he learnt about a summer school in the USA, which he attended last year.
Alexandra Naderer, who studies international relations at the University of Economics in Bratislava, highlights the opportunity of learning about tips and tricks from business leaders to help her achieve her goals. The mentors can also tell students what employers expect from their future employees and help them proceed with their future career, she added.
“Students mostly want to know how to start their business,” Ondrej Smolar, CEO of Soitron and a regular participant in the Mentor Network Program, told The Slovak Spectator.
Stanislav Molnár of Oracle also mostly answers questions related to his beginnings. Students ask not only about his successes, but also his failures. They also want to know whether it is better to start in a bigger company or launch their own business.
“I tell them to follow their heart,” Molnár told The Slovak Spectator, adding that it is important for people to like their job. This is, according to him, the key to success.
Learning from mistakes is important
The Mentor Network Program brings two main benefits to its participants, according to US Ambassador to Slovakia Adam Sterling.
First, students can create a network of contacts from the field they are interested in, find a job and understand the market better. Second, they can learn much from the personal experience of their mentors, about both failures and successes.
“That gives students entering the market for the first time a broader and more sophisticated view of what they can expect and help them decide what they want,” Sterling told The Slovak Spectator.
One of the reasons why the embassy supports the event is that they see value in helping its partners in Slovakia develop the next generation of talent, he added.
This is also why Kardoš encourages students not to be afraid of asking questions of the business leaders, even regarding mistakes they have made.
“Smart people learn from their mistakes and even smarter people learn from the mistakes of others,” he said.