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Career Development: Informal Mentoring

by Temple Smolen

January 20, 2011

Tip

by Temple Smolen

January 20, 2011

“Informal mentoring is just as effective as formal mentoring, if not more effective. If your organization does not have a formal mentor program, find an informal mentor."

Did you know you that both your salary and job satisfaction are likely to increase if you have a mentor? You will also have a 62% greater chance of career enhancement and promotions.

Companies that have mentor programs report a 77% increase in retention, which translates directly to the bottom line because the estimated cost of losing an employee, and recruiting, selecting, and training a replacement, is 1.5 times their annual salary. Combining mentoring with coaching increases productivity by 88%.

As e-Learning is a relatively new field, finding a traditional mentor who has significantly more experience, years on the job, or years in life is not as easy as it is in more established work arenas. However, a mentor relationship doesn’t have to be a formal or traditional one. It can range from being a casual arrangement for the duration of a project, to a formal long-term arrangement with regular meeting times.

Some personal experience

I have had the good fortune to have five mentors in my life. I had a different relationship, arrangement, and need with each one. Three of the five mentors were peers who happened to have experience that was relevant to my specific needs as I was in the midst of career and job changes. We never had a formal arrangement or used the word “mentor” to describe their role.

All of my mentors made a huge difference in helping me set and achieve my goals, and I am eternally grateful for their generosity and assistance. I also have both formally and informally mentored several people myself. Giving back for all the help I received was both personally and professionally rewarding.

How do mentors help, and how do you find one?

In my opinion, informal mentoring is just as effective as formal mentoring if not more effective. If your organization does not have a formal mentor program, find an informal mentor. A mentor might help in the following ways:

  1. Making a job or career change

  2. Seeking a promotion or raise

  3. Navigating the politics or unwritten rules of a team or organization

  4. Building a better relationship with a challenging boss or teammate

  5. Optimizing performance on a project

Whether you’re struggling with a difficult situation or have a goal in mind such as becoming the next Chief Learning Officer, I strongly encourage you to seek out some guidance from a trusted colleague. Asking someone to be your mentor might feel like an overwhelming request for both of you. If it does, start with a simple request for assistance with a particular project or problem and then see how it evolves from there. The person you choose should be someone whom you respect as successful, and who has experience that is relevant to your need. I also recommend you turn to someone you know personally and whose company you enjoy. That makes the journey more fun along the way.

Reference

Miles Gray, Marilynne. 2005 Survey of Mentoring Statistics & Research. http://www.mentoring-solutions.com/Mentoring%20Statistics%20WhitePaper%202005.pdf



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Your statement that e-Learning is a new field may need to be re-examined. While the name "e-Learning" is relatively new, it went by other names for close to 30 years.
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