Back to some business – mentoring a student at the verge of work life

Recently I have signed up with the alumni organisation of “my” university to participate in their mentoring program for students at the verge of work life. Mentoring – I have done that before and my former mentee is now a good friend of mine.

Let me reflect about what mentoring is and what an effective approach may look like.


What is mentoring?

In the Internet I found this definition of the Alberta Learning Information Service ALIS that resonates with me:

«Mentors are experienced, trusted advisors or counsellors who have successful careers and proven track records. Mentors are not usually paid for their services.

As a mentor, your role will be to:

  • make a commitment to support and encourage your mentee
  • encourage your mentee to develop careers that reflect their skills, potential and goals
  • offer wisdom, knowledge, experience, constructive criticism, connections and resources
  • focus on the overall career directions like advancement and training rather than on day-to-day concerns of your mentee
  • set an example for the level of professional conduct and success your mentee hopes to achieve»

In alignment with this definition and with my previous mentoring experience I understand that…

  • The mentor accompanies the overall career development of his mentee in a one to one setup independent of the current work place. He acts as a sparring partner bringing in his long year experience, with the target to help the mentee find a career path that matches his/her strengths and interests. The relationship is based on mutual trust and confidentiality. The time horizon is longer term and can be several years.
  • Mentoring is different from coaching. I understand that a coach accompanies an employee at his/her work place – to perform efficiently and effectively according to his potential.


How would I conceive our mentoring process to be effective?

To mentor a student at the verge of work life, I think of these steps for the process to be satisfactory and effective. 

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  • Basis: Initiative is with Mentee / Mentor is a responsive sparring partner
    From the mentee, I expect that he/she will drive the relationship, invite for meetings and/or ask for support, when he is ready or needs it. As a mentor, I will be the responsive (reachable) and  supportive sparring partner bringing in my experience and network. The mentee has to solve his “problem” and he can count on my mentor support. As a mentor, I cannot impose my ideas, I just give suggestions, hopefully good suggestions based on my experience.
  • Align mentor and mentee / revise relation: Trust and commitment
    As a first step, we, the mentor and the mentee will get to know one another, exchange about our motivations and backgrounds and find alignment. The target is to build trust. Trust is indispensable for our mentor/mentee relationship. Without trust it is not possible to proceed and achieve results. Based on trust, we make the commitment to start our mentor/mentee relationship. This relationship is not expected to be short term, and hence it is also necessary to revise it from time to time to verify trust and commitment still exist.
  • Identify mentee strengths/interests/personality: Profile
    As a second step, the mentee will identify his profile, with my mentor support. The profile consists out of his strengths (capabilities/talents/knowledge), his personality (e.g. more a researcher or an entrepreneur) and his interests (what activities turn me on). Useful structures to identify the profile are provided by Tim Clark, Alexander Osterwald and Yves Pingeur: “Business Model You“, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2012). They call it “key resources”.
  • Find targets: Value propositions
    Based on the profile or key resources, the next step is to find the activities that are of value for potential customers and that allow my mentee to make a living (earn money) and perhaps harness more personal benefits (such as satisfaction from living his mission or from doing what he likes to do). Tim Clark et alii recommend to find the “value propositions” using their structured “business canvas“.
  • Sell and apply: CVs, job selection > job
    Based on the profile and targets identified, we can act and apply for jobs. The profile will be phrased out in CVs (for media such as LinkedIn and for the “paper” CV that  might need adaption for individual applications. As a mentor, I also think of using my network and of coaching the interview process (letter of motivation, what the interviewer may ask/expect or ideas on how to react when being rejected). 
  • Digest lessons: Updated profiles, value propositions and CVs
    The experience gained during job applications will help us to loop back and update the profile and value proposition and the CVs (in the media (such as LinkedIn) and in the paper CV. Then more applications may follow – or it is also an alternative to look for options to open a business.
  • Hand over to work life: Business mentor
    Once, a job is found, I will have to retreat. I suggest to find a business mentor for similar support in the new work life. Well, in case our mentor/mentee relation was one of trust all the way through, I might have found another friend that would perhaps come back and ask for ideas and support from time to time.






Basel and the basilisks – following the traces of Baschi Zischer

Basilisks have been known since ancient times, in Egypt, Greece and Rome. Konrad Gessner from Zurich writes about them in the 16th century.  They are legendary animals – a mixture between a coq and a snake – and they take on various forms. Sometimes they have the second name “sibilus” = “hissing” or in German “zischen”). Basilisks hatch out of eggs that have been laid by a coq and bred by a snake (well, there are also variations to this). On the 4th of August 1474 a coq laid an egg in Basel and was then killed. So dangerous – imagine, a basilisk could have emerged out of this egg. In a beautiful small book, Thomas Hofmeier describes the various forms of basilisks, their history and their presence, in particular in Basel (“Basels Ungeheuer, eine kleine Basiliskenkunde“, Berlin and Basel 2016).

In the 15th century, Basel started to use the basilisk to hold their coat of arms, the “Baslerstab”, perhaps, because “Basel” sounds a bit like “Basilisk”. Basilisks do not only exist in Basel, but they are very important and omnipresent here. They sit on fountains (Augustinerbrunnen),…

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… they guard bridges (Wettsteinbrücke, his brother watches over the entrance to Langen Erlen and he has two more brothers),…

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… they hide in the cathedral (Münster, in front of the pulpit)…

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… they appear in my mum’s woodcarvings,…


and then there is the small basilisk Baschi Zischer.


Baschi Zischer? He is a small basilisk that gets lost and looks for his home, with the help of Mia (a wonderful children’s book)

Baschi Zischer is a small basilisk. He lives near the water somewhere in the city center and leaves home, because he hears a lot of “bumbum” and “weeeweeee” outside. It is the drums and pipes of the Basel carnival (Fasnacht). Baschi gets lost and Mia finds him in the front garden of her parents’ house near the river Rhine.  Anita Siegfried and Nicolas d’Aujourd’hui have written and illustrated the story about Mia that looks for Baschi’s home in the city center of Basel (“Baschi Zischer – ein Jahr quer durch Basel (a year in all corners of Basel)”, Basel 2007).

Always on search for fairy tales, I loved to read the story of Baschi and Mia. On a hot summer day, I looked for the places that they visited, when looking for Baschi’s home. Here are some samples.

The basilisk on the fountain near Mia’s home has no idea where Baschi lives.

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The fountain monkey on the Andreas Platz just knows that in earlier times the basilisks lived in the cave behind the Gerberbrunnen (fountain of the tanners).

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The historian of the museum of history does not know where Baschi’s home is. At Mia’s school Baschi plays the basketball right into the basket. Baschi slips into the river Rhine and has to be saved by the ferryman. At the old townwall (Letziturm) they meet a group of people disguised as knights that are happy to see a real basilisk. They make a selfie with him.

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(When I was here, I did not meet knights, but a group of Chinese – old friends from school, and one of them was a professional photographer capturing the memories).

In front of the Münster (cathedral) there is Knight George who kills the dragon.

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Baschi gets angry. What a nuisance, this dragon made out of stone is not dangerous at all.

While looking for Baschi’s home, Mia and her basilisk live through many more adventures in Basel. And as the next Fasnacht starts, yes – just right in time, Mia understands that Baschi lives, where the Birsig enters the Rhine. Baschi disappears in the tunnel and the next Fasnacht starts with drummers and pipers.

A wonderful children’s story, well told and well illustrated. I invite the two girls of friends of mine to follow the traces of Mia and her basilisk Baschi. It is the grils’ first guided tour through a town. The next day we visited the mini golf court in Grün 80 (a green park with play grounds and lakes), and the two girls shouted: “Look, another basilisk fountain!” Yes, right, I have never noticed that there is another one here. Later I notice a basilisk fountain near the central post office… there are many more such fountains in Basel. Let us have a closer look at them.


The basilisk fountains in Basel – a clever design

There are about 25 basilisk fountains in Basel. One of them was on my way to primary school on the Bruderholz. Believe me, I saw that fountain every day, more than 50 years ago, for four years. I knew it was there, always, reliably. But I never looked at it in detail. Now, thanks to Baschi Zischer, I discovered the clever design of these fountains.

This is the basilisk fountain on the water front of the Rhine (Reverenzgässlein). The basilisk holds the “Baslerstab” (coat of arms) and presents “him”-self to the people that may take a photo of the old city line above the Rhine.

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The basilisk fountain gives drinking water – to us people, …

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and also to our best friends, the dogs.

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At the end of the 19th century, Basel started to provide water directly into the houses. The huge fountains scattered over Basel were now in the way. Basel invited for a competition and selected the fountain of Wilhelm Bubeck (see Wikipedia). They installed about 50 of them. Today about 25 are left in Basel, one is in Zurich (perhaps as a sign of friendship, where sometimes “teasing” prevails) and one has even traveled to Moscow. Bubeck has done a great job, I believe, when designing the basilisk fountain for the thirst of people and their dogs.

Thank you, Baschi Zischer, you have opened my eyes. I may take more children of friends and of my family to discover my town Basel based on your adventures.

P.S. Also offers guided visits for kids following the traces of Baschi.









Göscheneralp – moor and highmoor reserve above the artificial lake – a photo hike

Would you join me for a photo hike on the Göscheneralp?

My friend Richard asks me: “Would you like to join me for a photo hike on the Göscheneralp?” Oh, yes, of course I would. I have been on the Göscheneralp some fifteen years ago, with Ernst. I would love to see it again and use my new Nikon camera, while benefiting from Richard’s experience. We buy train tickets to Göschenen, Richard reserves seats in the local bus to the Göscheneralp and one night in the Dammahütte (a Swiss Alpine Club mountain hut run by Lydia and Frank). And off we go, taking the early morning train at 6:04 AM in Basel arriving at the dam at 9:30 AM.


What is the Göscheneralp? It is an artificial lake with a nature reserve, a loop path and welcoming mountain huts in front of the Dammastock

The Göscheneralp was covered by an artificial lake in 1960. Water energy from the mountains –  this is ecological on one hand, but on the other hand I have mixed feelings about the village Hinteralp that is now under the water – including the church.

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May be I am not alone with my mixed feelings. The northern slopes above the artificial lake are now a nature reserve with moors and highmoors.

The loop path leads around the lake. The Swiss love to hike around the lake. Families with their kids (including their grandmothers and grandfathers) master the 3 hour walk on a narrow path going up and down and up and down.

The welcoming mountain huts cater for the hikers. The huts are called Bergseehütte, Chelenalphütte and Dammahütte. The Bergseehütte is managed by Toni Fullin. He is an institution. He is a mountain guide that documents the climbing routes and the traditional dishes that make use of what the mountains of Uri deliver. Such as soup made out of bread and cheese. The Dammahütte is where we have reserved to stay – it is about 650m above the lake level.


The moors and highmoors

We start north of the lake to take pictures in the moors and highmoors. The ponds reflect the mountains…

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… and the small chapel.

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We also come across a frog,…

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… enjoy the view of the Dammastock with its glacier,…

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… and play with background and foreground.

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The Chelenen Reuss… flowing water… let us play with the shutter time

We leave the moors and highmoors and cross the Chelenen Reuss. Here we practice changing the shutter time – short…

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… and longer.

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I prefer it shorter.


Up to the Dammahütte in the burning sun – a hearty welcome by Lydia and Frank

In the burning sun we walk up to the Dammahütte, about 2450m above sea level. Lydia and Frank with their daughter give us a hearty welcome. This is the evening view of the Göscheneralp Lake taken near the Dammahütte.

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We have an excellent dinner with soup, salad, Spaghetti and pine apple dessert.


Morning at six… the sky is clear

Early at six we look forward to a great and sunny day. This is the view of the morning sky

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The sun is still low and gives light to the Dammahütte in front of the Dammastock.

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After a tasty breakfast with Birchermüesli and rolled mountain cheese, we talk with the owners of the hut. As they expect more tourists today, the daughter prepares a Schlorzifladen. This is a cake common in Toggenburg near the lake of Constance (Bodensee).


Panorama walk with goats and more water games

We take the Panorama walk down to the lake. Hello goats!

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Yes, YOU MUST enjoy the view!

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The Damma Reuss – again we change the shutter time from short…

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… to longer.

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And then I look back with the thistle in the foreground.

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Back along the lake catching the 13:30 bus

Now we head down to the lake, join the families on their round walk south of the lake…

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and at the dam catch the 13:30 bus to Göschenen. Already around 5 PM we are back in Basel. It starts to rain and then it pours with rain. Lucky we have been having enjoyed two wonderful, sunny days.