With changing work environments, growing opportunities, and advancing technology, there is an increasing demand for skilled and knowledgeable young professionals. These young professionals are expected to manoeuvre the changing landscape with ease and skill right after they pass out of college or University. Therefore, it becomes crucial to have a mentor who would offer advice, guide and share their experiences to help the graduates/ professionals make the right choices that aid in their career growth and development.
With an aim to make mentorship accessible to everyone, especially to fresh graduates and young professionals, Mr. Arunabh Varma founded Intercell, a virtual platform for professional mentorship. To learn more about the need for professional mentorship, the role of a mentor, the benefits of mentorship, and the difference between counselling and mentoring, we conversed with Mr. Arunabh Varma, Founder and CEO, Intercell.
Here are the excerpts from our conversation, you can watch the full video interview on our YouTube channel.
Q: Why did you think of building a professional mentorship platform like Intercell?
A. I come from a family of doctors. But unlike the convention, I chose to pursue an MBA and later worked with a few corporates. This was when I realised the value of a mentor and how she/he could have helped me make better career choices while I was venturing out into the corporate world. This gave me reasons to push beyond expectations to try and figure it out on my own. I was inspired by Mr. Vinod Bhat, Co-founder of Saavn, about how he and his partner used technology to add value to the music industry.
I realised that there is a need for organising conversations as well as for building a professional mentorship platform like Intercell. Intercell was built to assist students who have different life goals and those who do not come from a family of multinational professionals or people with business backgrounds.
I have taken part in a few training programs and conducted some self-study in areas such as technology, marketing, sales, business planning, and others. This gave me the confidence to create a virtual mentorship platform.
We come across a lot of articles that quote “graduates are unemployed”. This could be because the graduates do not get the right opportunities or are not making the right decisions for their careers. It is not because of a lack of talent but because of a lack of proper guidance. They need somebody to guide them in the initial years of their career. We aim to empower graduates and young professionals to take the right decisions in their careers.
Q: What is the role of a mentor? What are some of the characteristics a mentor should possess?
A. We believe that a mentor should have empathy for the mentee and believe in the fundamental concept of philanthropy. Mentoring is about giving and making someone else’s vision a reality. Mentorship takes a lot of effort and is not easy. It takes a lot of effort for a mentor to extract a suitable output from a mentee.
As this is a challenging task, we follow strict protocols while matching the profile of a mentee with the mentor. We use the real-world, practical application rather than theory where the mentee is aware of their talents and interests and can follow careers based on those. The mentor also shares plenty of insights from their professional experience and perspectives based on short-term decisions but with a view to long-term planning. We have access to young talent that is so diverse and has no limits for the imagination. It is important that we guide them in the right direction.
Q: How does the virtual mentorship platform Intercell, work?
A. We have certain protocols to follow in the induction process when we onboard a mentor. A lot of focus is given to empathy, making the mentee comfortable, and language preference if the mentee wants to speak in a regional language.
We use technology to match the right mentors with the right students based on their needs, and we inform the mentor about the student they will be speaking to. We make sure this is in line with what the mentee is looking for. The mentors are already familiar with what the mentee does and what the mentee wants to do in their career before starting the mentorship program.
We encourage mentors to break the ice and make the mentee feel more comfortable in reaching out to the mentors. The mentors are seniors and have a lot of experience in their field. We value this because they take time out from their working hours to help the students.
The duration of the mentorship program on Intercell is of one year. Students enter into our mentorship program in their final year. They also get access to live internships and job opportunities. After the completion of the program, they are given a certificate of mentorship. We also reach out to them after 6 months of completion to understand and compare, what they have been suggested to do and what are they currently pursuing.
Q: What is the registration process on Intercell for the mentees and mentors?
A: There are different registration processes for the mentors and mentees on the Intercell platform.
The registration process for the mentees:
A mentee can be anyone who is seeking guidance in their career. But typically they are students pursuing graduation and are of 18-20 years of age or young professionals, who just started out. The registration process is free.
The registration process for the mentors:
There are strict procedures that are followed for mentor registration. We follow a set of rules, the person should have a minimum of 10-12 years of experience, no negative remarks in their careers so far, and must not have any biased opinions on social media, etc.
After the registration is done, we do internal checks, which might take about a week. Since there is a commercial angle to the program, we make sure it is organised and follows the required guidelines.
Q: What is the difference between career counselling and mentoring?
A. Career counselling is a profession in itself, and there are career counsellors and career counselling companies. Whereas, mentoring is not just about career guidance but also about building relationships with the mentee. The mentors are always approachable, and the mentee can open up to them about their career choices and also learn about the mentors, their experience, their career progression and more. There is also reverse mentoring, where the mentors also learn from the mentees.
Q: What is the role played by a mentor in a student’s life?
A: To give you examples of mentees from our platform, there are students from the MBA program who face confusion about whether to choose marketing or HR. In engineering, people have confusion in selecting a suitable branch, even in the field of medicine, they face the dilemma of whether to become a surgeon or a physician. When they talk to these successful people like mentors, they get to understand the rationale behind why they choose to do something or why they chose not to do something. This helps students in choosing a suitable path for themselves.
When it comes to young professionals, unfortunately, the ultimate question is about the package. Mentors help them understand to follow their passion, and not go behind the salary or package in the early years of their careers. Since there is an example in front of them, they feel motivated to try new things and follow their passion. They make them understand the importance of learning the skills and understanding the market trends, so that money can follow them and not vice versa. We have seen this happening organically.