Mentorship can accelerate personal and professional growth at any stage of your career. Companies benefit by attracting and cultivating diverse talent.
Career advancement is priority number one for many professionals. Forming strong working relationships with colleagues—particularly those who have been in your shoes—can help you develop and hone your skills in a rapidly changing work environment.
Mentoring is a productive way to connect with colleagues and peers who can both inspire and challenge you to grow and improve. Beyond that, mentors can be vital resources to help you set career goals that push you outside of your comfort zone. Later, they can be impartial resources that encourage you to stretch, then gently hold you accountable for staying on track.
Too often, we limit the concept of mentoring to formalized programs organized by an employer. In truth, many of the most profound mentoring relationships are informal ones where coaching is sought by personal initiative and sustained over many years and job changes.
Whether just beginning your career, or in a more senior role, never doubt the willingness of colleagues to share what they’ve learned. You might be surprised how easy it is to find the support you need to become the next, even better version of your professional self.
Mentorship is deeply beneficial for people at all levels, including those in the C-Suite. That’s because mentoring, at its best, consists of collaborative and mutually enhancing relationships. Done right, both parties learn from each other, viewing the other through their unique lens of experience and perspective, resulting in a widened aperture for both. As a mentee, you absolutely have the power to transform and enrich the career path of your mentor which is what makes the process so rewarding.
During my recent conversation with Vivian Vitale, Progress Board Director, she mentioned an informal mentor relationship she had while a manager:
“Thinking about mentors, initially you think about it more classically, like a boss. But I think I’ve had mentors in different ways that I really appreciate. I’ve had people that worked for me that mentored me. I had a woman who was the best at giving me critical feedback more than anybody that ever worked for me.”
The positive effects of mentoring range from better work habits to a higher likelihood of promotion. According to the Mentor Coach Foundation, 89% of those with mentors believe their colleagues value their work, compared to 75% who do not have mentors. Additionally, 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence.
Mentoring can also empower you to:
Mentorship can also help you recognize talents and skills you may have never realized you had.
Vitale continued, “When I think ‘mentor,’ I think of a boss that I had who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He saw my potential. He made me see that there was a gap between what I could do and what I thought I could do, and he really helped bridge that gap.
“He gave me the gift of self-confidence—it was there within me, but he helped me find it. I never forgot him for it. Once that point came, I was able to achieve more than I ever thought I would be able to.”
Mentoring can sharpen your listening, coaching and leadership skills as well, which will benefit both you and your organization. This triggers an empowering cycle where your growth inspires others to achieve, fostering a thriving culture of learning and innovation.
While all of us can benefit from mentoring, it has the power to truly uplift segments of our workforce under-represented in certain careers, industries, leadership roles, as well as on corporate boards. Modelling and advocacy are critical to advancement, and nurturing mentor-mentee relationships are important tools to help achieve more diverse representation in positions of authority and power. This not only helps people advance their careers, but also enriches decision making at all levels by bringing in a wider cross-section of perspectives and life experiences. As our individual apertures widen, so too does the frame of the entire team.
By designing mentorship programs with inclusion and diversity in mind, we can more easily foster an inclusive workplace where opportunities to succeed are available to everyone.
At Progress, we have taken bold steps to ensure all employees have an equal opportunity to thrive. Our programs strive to present humans of diverse backgrounds with accessible, structured and inclusive mentorship opportunities.
Corporate mentorship programs allow people to encourage and challenge each other so we can develop into more seasoned professionals equipped to ascend the leadership ladder. This is possible within formal programs, but also through informal mentorship. If no program is available at your workplace, take the initiative to seek advice from those with experience to share. And if you are approached, embrace the opportunity to gain by giving.
Mentoring is something we need at every phase of our professional lives—and it’s never too late to begin.
Katie Kulikoski is Chief People Officer for Progress and is responsible for all aspects of the company's global human resources function, including culture development, talent acquisition, retention, change management and process effectiveness.
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