Why Mentoring Matters

April 8, 2022by Jennifer Murray0

Do you recall your first mentor? My first mentor is unforgettable! She played a critical role in my career and professional development.

I was a young newlywed when I started my first professional job at AT&T. I was learning about post-college work life, being a wife, living in a new area, and learning about how technology enables business processes. AT&T had an outstanding training curriculum. My new hire class embarked on a three-month blended learning program that taught us about technology and sales skills. Those skills were critical to perform my job. My mentor helped me develop skills and success strategies outside of the formal AT&T training program. She helped me navigate the new world of corporate America! Those lessons were not captured in a course, manual, or a cheat sheet. Our mentoring relationship worked because I was eager to learn, I respected her wisdom and experience, and she was willing to invest in me. She guided me through several job transitions.

Mentoring relationships can shorten the learning curve by helping the newcomer learn the nuances that aren’t documented in the training or the process documents. Recently Forbes published an article on the value of mentoring. “A 2019 study out of Olivet Nazarene University shared that 76% of people understand that a mentor is critical for their career success, yet only 37% have one.”

One of my business partners was a recent college graduate from High Point University. He was cheerful, polished, and eager to succeed. He attributed his positive, professional approach to one of his college mentors. I was so impressed with the impact his mentor had on him that I quickly reconnected with my alma mater, the College of William and Mary to explore mentorship opportunities.

The College of William and Mary holds virtual, group career mentoring events several times throughout the year. Some people may refer to these events as “speed dates.”  The College of William and Mary uses technology to connect alumni with current undergraduate, graduate, and law students, as well as alumni seeking career guidance. Mentees explore the background information provided by the mentors. Then they select an individual to virtually meet for several minutes. They exchange resumes for reference and may agree to continue the conversation after the initial discussion. I have enjoyed the opportunity to share my journey and connect the mentees to people, resources, and potential opportunities that may help them explore internships and career opportunities.

I also participate in more focused mentoring programs. Dress for Success has a mentoring program that connects mentors with women that may need guidance on resume writing, interviewing skills, or finding jobs. The mentee connects with a mentor for an hour to discuss her current stage in the job exploration process and the desired skills or resources that would help her move forward. The participants may spend the hour drafting a cover letter for a specific job, creating a resume, or investigating different job opportunities that fit with the mentee’s skills, knowledge, experience, availability, and access to the job location. If the mentee needs additional assistance, she can register for another session and may have the opportunity to meet with a different mentor in the next session.

RMSHRM also has a program that connects mentors and mentees. This is a 12-month program that helps the mentee focus on attaining specific goals. My protégé and I meet monthly to discuss current challenges, along with resources, and strategies to progress toward goal attainment. We follow a framework that keeps us accountable.

These are some examples to represent a variety of options that you may consider to help your team members continue to grow inside your organization.

Not all programs are immediately successful. Harvard Business Review shared, “marginal or mediocre mentoring may be a consequence of assigning mentors who are too busy, disinterested, dysfunctional, or simply lack competence in the role. Prospective mentors often are randomly selected or told to participate. Leaders fail to give resources to, evaluate, or reward mentoring. With no meaningful incentives attached, it is justifiably seen as an onerous add-on duty, a thankless distraction from real work leading to pay and advancement.”

We can overcome those obstacles by creating a framework for success. Successful mentoring relationships typically have structure that defines goals, the roles and responsibilities of both participants, a timeframe, meeting frequency, and participant surveys. Volunteering for the mentoring role can be a growth opportunity for future leaders. It also creates a development opportunity for current leaders. Mentors often share that they learned more from the mentee than they expected. Capturing feedback from the pilot program participants will help to shape future iterations. With a small investment, time to plan, communicate, and launch the program, we can create a program that surpasses the “mediocre” rating and results in long-term, measurable success.

 

  1. Ruth Gotian, Getting More Out Of Your Mentoring Relationship, February 1, 2022,

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthgotian/2022/02/01/getting-more-out-of-your-mentoring-relationship/?ss=chro-network&sh=7ea90f4817a5

 

  1. Brad Johnson, David G. Smith, and Jennifer Haythornthwaite, Why Your Mentorship Program Isn’t Working, July 17, 2020,

https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-your-mentorship-program-isnt-working

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