The Trust in mentoring in the pre-career context of the business students

  • Sari-Johanna Karhapää University of Eastern Finland
  • Mirjami Ikonen University of Eastern Finland
Keywords: trust, mentoring, business students, process view, qualitative research, benevolence


This paper examines how trust is perceived from the mentor’s perspective in mentoring relationship. Mentoring being an interactive relationship in which experienced individual (mentor) shares one’s knowledge and wisdom with less experienced and usually younger actor, protégé, (Noe, 1988; D’Abate & Eddy, 2008) is studied in the pre-career context of the business students applying qualitative methods and a process view. Mentoring process includes four stages, which are initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition (Kram, 1983; Chao, 1998). Mutual trust is the basis of cooperation in mentoring relationships (Lewicki & Bunker 1996; Wilson & Patent, 2011). Trust in the other individual means ‘to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another and a willingness to be vulnerable’ (Rousseau et al., 1998; Mayer et al., 1995). Vulnerability appears in a form of not being able to monitor or control the actions of the other party in the relationship (Mayer et al., 1995). Here, trust in mentoring is explored based on the dimensions of trustworthiness being competence, integrity, and benevolence (Mayer et al., 1995). Trust initiates and develops based on a cognitive evaluation of another individual’s (trustee’s) trustworthiness. Ability is one of the three factors of trustworthiness presented by Mayer et al (1995). Ability consists of skills, competences, and characteristics of an individual. Integrity being the most essential to trust in the early stages of a relationship includes features of the trustee such as reliability, fairness, justice, and consistency, which the trustor considers acceptable (Mayer et al., 1995; Fulmer & Gelfand, 2012). Judgements of ability and integrity form quite quickly during the relationship. Benevolence includes the notion that the trustee wishes to do good for the trustor, rather than having an opportunist motive, and has a degree of attachment to the trustor (Schoorman et al., 2007). The impact of benevolence in trust increases with interaction over time as the relationship develops (Mayer et al., 1995). The bonding of benevolence takes more time. The empirical data consists of ten mentors’ interviews. The study follows qualitative approach, and the data is analyzed by thematic analysis. Mentoring process followed formal business students’ mentor programs. Nine of the mentors were operating in Finland (Moorrees, 2019) and one mentor in Denmark. The mentoring focused on the counseling of business students for transition to the labor market. Based on the preliminary findings, mentor’s ability originates from their education, experiences in business and private life. Also, the mentoring program offers knowledge and guidance. Ability to communicate is essential especially related to themes such as the search of job, and characteristics of work life. These themes are highlighted in the pre-career context of the business students because the transition to the labor market were in the focus in mentoring. Themes in relation to benevolence were emphasized. Benevolence was revealed in themes concerning support and encouragement of the protégé. Dimensions of trustworthiness in relation to mentoring in the precareer context of the business students will be discussed in more details in the full paper.

Author Biography

Mirjami Ikonen, University of Eastern Finland

Senior University lecturer, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus.Admin.)
University of Eastern Finland | UEF | Business School
Joensuu campus | Aurora
Yliopistokatu 2 | P.O. Box 111 | 80101 Joensuu



Chao, G. 1998. Invited reaction: challenging research in mentoring, Human Resource Development Quarterly, 9 (4), 333-338.
D’Abate, Caroline P. & Eddy E.R., (2008). Mentoring as a learning tool: enhancing the effectiveness of an undergraduate business mentoring program. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 16, No. (4), 363–378.
Fulmer, Ashley, C. & Gelfand, J. Michele (2012). At What Level (and in Whom) We Trust: Trust Across Multiple Organisational Levels. Journal of Management. Vol. 38 No. 4 pp. 1167-1230.
Kram, K. E. 1983. “Phases of the mentor relationship,” Academy of Management Journal, 26: 608-625.
Lewicki, Roy J. & Bunker Barbara Benedict (1996). Developing and Maintaining Trust in Work Relationships, in Kramer, R. & Tyler, T. (Eds.) Trust in Organisations. pp. 114-139
Mayer, Roger C. & Davis James H. & Schoorman F. David (1995). An Integrative Model of Organisational Trust. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 20. No. 3, 709-734.
Moorrees, Olivia (2019). Mentor as a counsellor. Interview survey of mentors’ description of their competence. University of Eastern Finland. Philosophical faculty. School of Educational Sciences and Psychology.
Master’s thesis.
Noe, R. 1988. An investigation of the determinants of successful assigned mentoring relationship, Personnel Psychology, 41, 457-479.
Rousseau, D., Sitkin, S., Burt, R., & Camerer, C. (1998) Not So Different After All: A CrossDiscipline View of Trust. Academy of Management Review, vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 393–404.
Schoorman F. David & Mayer Roger C. & James Davis H. (2007). An Integrative Model of Organisational Trust: Past, Present, and Future. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, 344-354.
Wilson, Anthea & Patent, Volker (2011). Trusted to care: role of trust in mentoring. In Searle, Rosalind H. & Skinner, Denise (Eds.) Trust and Human Resource Management, pp 139-154. Edward Elgar Cheltham, UK. Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.
4.3 The Future of Nordic Business Education