Mentoring 101

My department at work has a mentoring program for all new employees. The purpose of the program is to help all new employees ‘feel comfortable in their role by providing support and information, inspire, and encourage a strong, value-based work ethic.’ According to my supervisor, a mentor should be ‘experienced, enthusiastic and willing, and encouraging.’ Guess who has two thumbs and just became an official mentor to an impressionable recent grad? This girl here. Every year a new cohort of fellows start in the department. Fellows are recent graduates who commit to one year of working in the department. Basically the fellows try out the department and organization and the department determines if they are a good fit. When my supervisor asked if I wanted to mentor a fellow I thought ‘I was a fellow two years ago, and now it’s my turn to pay it forward.’

I’m about one month into my official mentoring partnership and kind of had a mini freak out moment.  I asked myself, ‘Am I making a positive impact on my mentee?’ So, I did a little research to see what the experts have to say. Many articles (check out this, this, and this) state how important mentoring is. The beauty of mentoring is that anyone and everyone can do it! According to The Atlantic, the latest installment of the movie Cars (yes…that movie with talking automobiles…keep trucking along with me here) teaches audiences that ‘everyone has something to learn about navigating the relationship between confidence and ability, and finding people to help along the way.’ But even though everyone can mentor, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy! The authors in an article by Harvard Business Review recognize the importance of mentoring and emphasize the lack of guidance available on how to be a good mentor. The article offers a mentoring playbook that highlights guidelines of a successful mentoring relationship. Not all tips can be applied to every mentoring relationship; personally I’ve applied two or three to my partnership. One that sticks out the most to me is “Establishing a Mentorship Team”. There is no possible way I could teach my mentee everything about the organization or the department, and that’s where a team of mentors come in. Sticking with the playbook theme, let’s imagine I’m the captain of a NBA team and a point guard. The team recently drafted a young player to the team who is a small forward. Can I show my new teammate the ropes in regards the team atmosphere and being in the NBA? For sure! Can I adequately coach her on how to be the best small forward she can be? No. In my current partnership, I act more as a gatekeeper to a plethora of mentors. My mentee and I discuss her interest and I point her in the right direction of someone who is more knowledgeable in that area that can help her.

Whether you are a mentee or a mentor, make sure that you’re getting the most out of your partnership – don’t be afraid to create a personal board of directors, consisting of multiple mentors of different backgrounds (gender, age, race, industry) who are willing to help you.


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