According to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development, 75 percent of senior executives say mentoring has been critical in helping them reach their current position. Despite this candid accreditation from those who’ve made it to the top, surprisingly few candidates ever ask during the interview process about the mentorship opportunities a potential employer might offer. This is a shame, because increasing evidence suggests that a structured mentoring program might be the best benefit an organization could offer.
Why Job Seekers Should Look for Mentoring Opportunities
Employees involved in a mentoring program are measurably more engaged at work, more productive, and less likely to want a new job. While this is clearly excellent news for employers, it’s great news for the employee as well. A mentoring program provides employees with a clear path for professional and personal growth, which is unavailable at many other jobs.
The bottom line is an effective mentoring program can improve the careers of all who participate.
For mentees, there is access to their mentor’s extensive knowledge base, strategies for advancing successfully within the company, and established network of industry contacts.
For mentors, there is an essential glimpse into the new perspectives a fresh employee brings to the enterprise and the opportunity to stay connected to the pulse of day-to-day operations. These are important details from which those in leadership positions often find themselves isolated.
For the company, there is the competitive advantage of retaining an engaged workforce that carries forward institutional knowledge and is appropriately primed for smooth succession planning.
Making the Most of Your Mentorship
During the interview process, it is important for candidates to find out whether the company has a formal mentoring program and, if so, how effective it is. To speak competently to candidates’ concerns, recruiters and other company reps should know the ins and outs of any mentoring programs the company offers, including how new employees are partnered with mentors and how mentoring opportunities can evolve over time.
Once enrolled in a company-sponsored mentoring program, employees must take full advantage of it. Often, the most impactful experiences come about when mentees take it upon themselves to keep in contact with their mentors. Be sure to keep your appointments with your mentor and focus on the goals you have set up together. Establishing a strong relationship early on with your mentor is key to making the program work for your professional development.
At the same time, don’t assume a mentoring program is a secret back channel to a promotion. Be prepared to pay your dues at the company, and even in your mentoring relationship. The key to all mentoring relationships is that they remain beneficial to all parties. At the end of each meeting, ask your mentor, “What can I do for you?” Their answer might surprise you.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek out additional mentors as your needs change, which they likely will over the course of your career.
Mentorships Pay Off
As with company benefits like a 401(k) or stock plan, a mentoring program represents an investment for the new hire that pays greater and greater dividends the longer they stay active in the plan. The more they diversify, the better their odds of success.
Immediate payoffs include receiving guidance and knowledge from a senior member of the team — information that should make performing your job more productive and peppered with fewer missteps.
Later, the mentor can serve as a sounding board for new initiatives or big departmental moves that might affect the mentee’s success within the company. The mentor can even provide friendship and counsel when the mentee has moved on from the company to explore other career opportunities.
Mentoring programs are incredible benefits that can significantly enhance your career progression. Be sure to look for one the next time you consider a new employment opportunity.
Phil George is cofounder of MentorcliQ.