Why are mentoring programs so important?

by Sylvie Edwards

Mentoring is truly a fulfilling relationship that develops over a shared goal of giving and getting knowledge passed on. It can be formal or informal, but in almost all cases it leads to discoveries about you as an individual.

I have had the pleasure of mentoring (still do) several individuals over the past twenty or more years. It has been for me an experience that I would not trade in for anything. I believed in it so much that it was one of those member services that I wanted to ensure was offered by our local PMI Chapter (PMI – DHC in Durham Region, Ontario) when I was on the board of directors. A mentoring program, be it in an organization or as part of an association, provides a great way to become part of that entity and provides the feeling that you are contributing in some way. For those who can relate, this is straight from Maslow’s pyramid in the area of belonging. A level that brings fulfillment in so many forms by developing knowledge, and relationships through professional networking.

It has been my experience that with each individual, a bit of a different relationship emerged. Some of my mentees moved on to bigger and larger things while still keeping in touch through networking events or birthday and holiday cards. Some I have been involved with for most of their professional life and have been around for some career move questions. I would like to think that in some ways, I have been a professional springboard for most of them. All have one thing in common, they have made me and thought of me as a better person.

A mentor/mentee relationship is far from one-sided as most people think. It is not about just giving it is also about getting in return. It can be so rewarding to discover a new concept through the eyes or mind of your mentee, something you might not have pursued or even looked at on your own. It is a bit like a teacher and student relationship in where one grows by the other learning and vice versa.

Taking the first step in becoming a mentor is all that it takes. Most organizations look at their more senior employees to be mentors to newer ones while there are a lot of associations (including PMI®) who develop mentoring programs as part of their mandate to their members. If you don’t belong to any of these, you can also look one up in your town groups that are looking for mentors such as Ten Thousand Coffees, Universities or College programs. It is often easier to start with an already organized program that will provide both you and your mentee with the rules of the “game.” Having a structure in place within an existing program makes the process easier. Most of the programs will as well do the initial pairing saving you the time and uncertainty of finding a person with similar interests.

Most people are afraid of the time commitment, mentoring will impose on their schedule. When I first started, I committed to a minimum of one hour a month, but as you develop as a mentor, you will find that you can easily give more than one hour a month and this is where you know how to juggle the commitments of mentorship with the rest of your personal ones.

A great article to review to get you started on your path to mentorship is “How to Get a Mentor” by Ronan Leonard where he discusses the types of mentors and how to go about finding one that works. The information in this article can point either a mentor or a mentee towards a starting point.

At first mentoring can seem like a foreign concept but as you invest yourself in that relationship it does become gratifying and a great learning experience for both people involved. Open up your horizon and give of yourself professionally to another by becoming a mentor to someone starting out in the business. This is one of the development steps that I have never regretted participating in, and I am certain you won’t either.


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