April 20, 2010
If you are looking to advance your career, it is absolutely essential to seek the guidance and help of a mentor: a suitably experienced person with whom you can discuss your career goals, obstacles, and generally work with to solicit confidential guidance and direction on the best course of action to take.
Your mentor should be someone who possesses the appropriate level of wisdom, expertise, and professional success that you also seek. They can be someone you know or someone that would be beneficial to get to know. Their role is to challenge and support you but not simply tell you what to do. The goals of the mentoring relationship should be stated up front so that everyone stays on task. The time span for the mentoring relationship can be generally short (less than 6 months) or long. A good mentor will want to ensure that you gain confidence and independence as a result of mentoring, and that you are empowered to take full and effective responsibility for your own development over the next career stage. Your mentoring relationship with them can be either formal or informal.
The informal mentoring relationship could be something as simple as identifying a trusted colleague with whom you would like to meet on a regular or semi-regular basis in an informal setting (for lunch, coffee, or sometime during the work day). The purpose of these meetings is already pre-established and should not serve as gripe sessions for you to dump all of your complaints about the company and the people you work with. Remember, always keep it professional and positive. During your informal meeting, solicit your mentor’s input and advice on the people, resources, and activities that you should align yourself with in order to gain additional exposure, development, and access to events that would advance your career. This informal relationship should stimulate your professional development and assist you in becoming more effective at reaching your goals. It’s like having an inside ally that will guide you in the written and unwritten rules and help you to avoid the pitfalls during your career.
The formal mentoring relationship goals are very similar to the informal mentoring goals. The difference is that the mentor and mentee in a formal relationship, meet on scheduled, assigned days and times and also have set goals, activities, and a timeline to begin and conclude the mentoring relationship. Many formal mentoring programs are set up through companies and professional organizations. Primarily, the goal is to provide additional development and access to professional opportunities within the company or profession.
The Benefits of Mentoring
There are many benefits both to the Informal and Formal Mentoring relationship. Positive reported outcomes of mentoring include:
- Enhanced career development and access
- Guidance around pitfalls and tools to avoid them in their career
- Improvement in attitude by challenging assumptions
- Increased self confidence and visibility within the company
- Job enrichment and opportunities to build wider networks within the company and profession
Benefits reported by a number of leading organizations include:
- Retention of quality staff
- Enhanced transfer of skills
- Increased on-the-job learning
- Increased talent pool that is ready for advancement
- Cost-effective method to enhance staff development
- A stabilizing factor in times of change
If this sounds like something you would be interested in, begin to do some research within your place of employment to determine if there are currently mentorship programs in place. The Human Resources / Training and Development Department would be a great place to begin. If no programs currently exist, identify who you would like to serve as your informal mentor and approach them with a conversation. For more formal mentoring programs, you can also contact professional organizations in your area of expertise to see if there are any programs already established. Your professional development rests in your hands. Take action now in order to reach your future career goals. The first step begins with you!
Shonda Y. Lewis is the Owner and President of Ridgeway Lewis Consulting, where she leads positive individual and organizational transformation. You may contact her at:
Filed under: Career Development: Interviewing, Networking