The New Mentorship Model
By Alyssa Goldman
Mentorship matters. There’s no question about it. You aren’t going to keep moving up the proverbial ladder without the guidance and support of those who’ve walked in your shoes. But the concept of “formal” mentorship is daunting and less relevant than ever before. Like everything, mentorship is changing. Here are four ways to make the new model work for you:
1. Invite more people to the party: When mentorship is labeled as a formal process, it’s perceived as a big commitment. But, you’re never going to have the exact career path of anyone else, nor mirror a single person’s challenges or successes. No one mentor is going to be your end-all be-all. Expand and diversify your network of mentors. Create a board of directors and seek out friends, colleagues, clients, managers, peers for different aspects of growth.
2. Ditch the name. A mentor doesn’t need to be called a mentor. It doesn’t have to be someone you speak to once a month or grab lunch with quarterly. Mentorship can be a relationship with anyone you trust, whose opinion you value, whose guidance or feedback you seek. It can be someone you exchange TOUs — “thinking of you” emails — with every couple of months, or someone you go to for advice once in a while. Stay away from labeling the relationship; simply connect with your advisors on an as-needed basis, and be sure to return the favor.
3. Use alternative mentoring methods. 85 Broads hosts “The Mentorship Circle,” a peer-to-peer mentoring program for women of all ages, stages of their career, and industries. Recognize the value of your peer group as a platform for learning from people outside your organization or even your industry—learning has no boundaries.
And how about reverse mentoring? If you’ve got a mentor who’s older than you, fill them in on what’s going on with Gen Ys at work. Or teach your boss how to use Twitter. No matter what stage of your career you are at, you have value to add too; share your experiences and expertise just as generously as you hope / expect others to share with you.
4. Shoot for the stars, find a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has political capital and is willing to put his or her reputation on the line for you. A sponsor has the ability to pull you into ever-greater roles or responsibilities within your organization or get you promoted. Sponsors recognize excellence in their protégés and go to bat for them.
So go ahead and think outside the box on this one—demonstrate excellence to attract mentors and sponsors; ask for feedback, seek out guidance and counsel from people all around you. And share the love—give back as much as you receive. Create a mentorship model that works for you and take your game to the next level.