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Mentorship Match at Confluence 2024

A reflection by Nicole Reese

This year, Confluence 2024 included a Mentorship Match, an opportunity for attendees to be paired for a mini-mentorship experience. Roughly 65 people participated in the Mentorship Match, and the result for many was a connection to learn from their mentor/mentee and also to get a taste of the potential benefits of seeking a mentor or mentoring others. 

photo by Nicole Reese

We hosted a networking session as well as a discussion to learn more about the ways people view mentorship and what opportunities or barriers exist for more fully utilizing mentorship within the conservation community. This session, as well as feedback throughout Confluence, will inform our efforts in developing a Mentorship Toolkit.

 Thanks to everyone for the insightful conversations around mentorship!

As our second iteration of the Mentorship Match, we’ve learned a fair bit about how to streamline the matching process, and were able to reduce our process from several days of reviewing applications down to one. However, there still remains some questions about how to find the best fit for folks with limited information. Since the reviewers didn’t know every person participating, it was difficult at times to match strangers with each other, and I know we were bound to make a few mistakes. We’ll continue to improve upon our match questionnaire and advocate holding space in the agenda for matches to meet in-person during the event.

During our networking session at Confluence, Paula shared with us a fun icebreaker using pieces of an image to help participants come together to see the full picture. But before mingling, she asked everyone to write words of encouragement on the back of the photo, and once the groups made their complete photos, they exchanged pieces and shared those words of encouragement with each other. You can read the full description of Paula’s icebreaker here.

An early morning hike connecting with some emerging leaders at Confluence, thanks Paula Short for the group photo!

Overall I enjoyed connecting with many of the participants at Confluence, and I felt this Mentorship Match program was a great success as shown in this feedback from our Mentorship Match:

“The mentorship match allowed (and encouraged) more vulnerable, real conversations than I normally would feel comfortable having at a conference with someone I don’t know very well. It was refreshing and helpful to ask advice about career paths, work-life balance, and dealing with confusing or difficult situations at work.”

“I had a great conversation with my mentor prior to the event, and a couple more smaller conversations during and after. I believe I have made a real professional connection that will outlast Confluence.”

“The benefit I gained exceeded my expectation because, while I expected to enjoy the program and have a nice chat with my mentor, I did not expect to actually leave with multiple actionable pieces of advice and inspiration that I’ve used since.”

“I really appreciated my match and learned a lot from them – we’re planning on connecting more in the future.”

I’m excited to promote more mentorship opportunities through the WCCN in the future! If you’d be interested in helping us develop best practices for mentorship through the development of a toolkit, please connect with me or Paula Short.