Ensuring your advisors are both willing AND able.
By Callie Verderosa
The lifeblood of student organizations is often a group of willing and able volunteers that step up to mentor and advise college students. But just because someone is willing to be an advisor doesn’t necessarily mean they are able. That’s where advisor training comes in.
Too often, training falls flat because it dives right into the granular before reminding attendees why they volunteered to be an advisor in the first place. By starting with the purpose, you are priming attendees to be excited about involvement with your organization and shaping their time with the organization. A strong why can endure almost any how.
Here are four additional steps you can implement (taken from Plaid’s online advisor training program) that will prepare your advisors to make a big impact on your organization:
1. Teach them the organization’s (and its members’) language. Each organization has its own rules and traditions, and each generation of students has unique needs. Set your advisors up to win by providing them the details, from the organizational culture to the group’s motivations, that will help them build trust with their students.
2. Develop their toolbox—not just their knowledge base. Advising takes practice, and there are tools like mentoring, conflict mediation, and decision making that will help your volunteers be stronger advisors. Teach them these skills, and give advisors space to hone them while developing their own style.
3. Make sure they know who has their back. Your training session can’t always cover everything under the sun, so be sure your advisors know who they can turn to when they have questions once the rubber hits the road.
4. Prepare them to protect the organization’s culture. Consistent, year-over-year support combined with a commitment to the core values of the organization ensures a healthy and safe organizational culture for your students. Be sure your advisors are prepared to protect the culture from harmful traditions and risky behavior.
A one-day cooking class isn’t going to turn a novice into a sous-chef, but it should give them a foundation they can build on and skills they can use the minute they walk out the door. Great advisor training should do the same thing.