Insights into Mentoring

You’ve heard it before – “get yourself a mentor” – but what does that really mean and what type of mentoring relationship is for you? Here are some insights into the different types of mentoring relationships, and tips on how to make them successful.

When you talk to most successful people today, they often give credit to a mentor they have had at some stage during their career. This is a specific person who has given their time to share their insight and experiences that have ultimately helped get them to where they are.  Today, you no longer have to stick to the traditional mentor/mentee relationship – as you will see below, mentoring can take different forms – what they have in common is that it is all about learning from others.

Internal Mentor

Over the years, I have worked for a number of large organisations who as part of development programs provided each participant with an internal mentor. Generally, the mentor was someone who was independent from them, had more experience and were from a different part of the business. More often than not, the relationship was of immense value to the participant, as well as the mentor, as the insights that were shared within this relationship could be about anything – from how to navigate the organisation to how to work with clients.

External Mentor

Whilst it is great to get the insights about the inner workings of an organisation, sometimes you need to get an external perspective. You could tap into your personal network or join a mentoring group.  Many industries have formal mentoring programs that you can join that are specific to an area of interest, such as business mentoring for women or an entrepreneurs mentoring program. Do your research and find a mentor who can offer you a different perspective to what someone from within your organisation can.

Reverse Mentoring

According to Harvard Business Review, Millennials – the people born between 1977-1997 – will shortly account for half the employees in the world. With organisations now being made up of a younger more tech savvy workforce, there is an increased opportunity to flip mentoring around to have someone from a younger generation mentor a more senior person. It’s an effective way for the younger generation to gain insight into the business and for senior leaders to understand how the younger generation ticks.

Group Mentoring

At a time when organisations are grappling with how to collaborate more effectively, setting up group mentoring can be massively beneficial. This type of mentoring works well for people who prefer to learn from their peers; and through social collaboration employees can quickly pass knowledge and insights to their colleagues. Group mentoring can be led by a senior person or it can be done peer-to-peer, self-organising in topic based groups. I have seen it used in an organisation as part of an induction program – it is a less resource-intensive way to connect new hires and get them up to speed quickly.

Be a Mentor

Chances are there is someone out there who is looking for someone like you – so offer your time to mentor someone – after all, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. As career management specialists, we encourage everyone to seek out a mentor as it is an opportunity for you to learn and develop, extend your network and may give you insights that you may never have reached on your own.

References: Harvard Business Review – Mentoring Millennials (May 2010), Jeanne C. Meister & Karie Willyerd.