Mentorship

What is a career mentor and do you need one?

A career mentor is someone who uses their experience to guide and help you grow your career. This article unpacks career mentoring with examples and why it's critical in today's workplace.

Ryan Carruthers

July 19, 2022

The demand for a career mentor continues to rise. A study by TimelyMD, a student health and wellbeing company, shows (69%) of graduating college seniors said the pandemic made them feel less prepared to enter the workforce.

Luke Heji, TimelyMD CEO, believes this serves as a warning for employers.

The rise of the hybrid workforce – employees who split their time between working in the office and remotely – has created new challenges for employers regarding employee engagement and productivity. Providing every employee with a career mentor can help them grow professionally and personally.

This article will look at what a career mentor is and its importance. We'll provide examples of career mentors, topics for discussion between mentors and mentees, and how to start a formal mentoring program (if you want to know more about launching a workplace mentoring program, check out how the mentoring platform we’ve built to make it easy).


What is a career mentor?

A career mentor is someone who uses their experience to guide and help you grow your career. They offer their advice and expertise to help you make decisions, overcome challenges, and progress in your career.

Having a career mentor is a valuable way to gain insights, knowledge and advice from someone with extensive experience in their field. Learning from their guidance can help you avoid mistakes, and they can offer support during times of transition or challenge.

A good mentor relationship can be transformational, helping you chart a career path that will take you to the next level.

Providing career mentoring to employees also yields positive outcomes such as improving employee retention and engagement.


Why is it important to have a career mentor?

Career mentors are like catalysts. Just as catalysts speed up the rate of a chemical reaction, career mentors speed up their mentees' progress. However, they do more than help their mentees climb the career ladder; they also help them build confidence and overcome their doubts.

Having a career mentor is important for several reasons:

  • They help you learn about different careers and fields.
  • They help their mentees navigate their way through the job market.
  • They provide guidance and support during difficult times.
  • A career mentor can expand your network and connect with other professionals.

And no one knows this better than Tinna Salinas, a UI/UX graphic designer who had moved from the Philippines to the US.

Despite an impressive portfolio with over 2000 design projects under her belt and managing a team of 12, Salina still nurtures self-doubts of her potential and culture shock, preventing her from going after premium paying clients.

Salina says, "I just felt that I wasn't doing well enough, or that I wasn't going to cut it." However, everything changed after she enrolled in a career mentoring program called Ascenders Academy, a nine-month mentoring program from Capitol Creative Alliance.

And it was through this program that she met her career mentor Heather Hogan. Hogan was an experienced designer herself and helped Salina tweak her resume and portfolio to help her stand out.

Hogan’s most impactful guidance came to solve Salina’s biggest problem—turnover in her team. Upon Hogan’s direction, she created an internal playbook that facilitates onboarding and training. After which, Salina's team jumped from 12 to 21. We’ve seen many onboarding programs adopt personalized training and mentoring to great avail.

When asked about her experience and time with Hogan, "she gave me a lot of resources and helped me with my current job." she said.


Examples of career mentoring

The following are career mentor examples that organizations could model their mentoring program around depending on what they set out to accomplish.

One on one career mentoring

In one on one mentoring, an experienced mentor provides ongoing support and advice to younger, less-experienced mentee.

Examples:

  • A recent college graduate might consult with a mentor about job search strategies and interviewing tips.
  • A mid-career professional might meet with a mentor to discuss ways to transition into a new role.

Group career mentoring

The group’s mentor leads a small batch of mentees in discussions and activities focused on career development.

Examples:

  • A group of interns might meet with a mentor weekly to discuss their career goals and develop action plans.
  • A group of entry-level professionals pairs with a mentor monthly to discuss professional development strategies.

Flash career mentoring

Mentor and mentee meet for a short period (e.g., an hour) to discuss a specific career issue or goal.

Examples:

  • A mentee meets with a mentor for an hour to discuss networking strategies.
  • A manager pairs with a mentor for an hour to discuss ways to better support and develop their direct reports.

Peer-to-peer career mentoring

In peer mentoring, colleagues support and advise each other on career-related issues. This can be helpful for employees who work in different departments or locations.

Examples:

  • An employee who is new to their field connects with a more experienced peer mentor for advice and guidance.
  • Two employees who work in different departments meet regularly to discuss their career goals.

Virtual career mentoring

In virtual mentoring, the mentor and mentee communicate via email, phone, or video chat. This can be helpful for employees who live in different geographic areas or have scheduling conflicts.

Examples:

  • A mentee and mentor discuss career goals via email.
  • A manager and mentee meet via video chat to discuss development opportunities.


Topics of discussion for career mentoring relationships

There are a few reasons mentors and mentees may find it helpful to develop discussion agendas before their meetings.

  • First, an agenda ensures that the meeting stays on track and covers all the topics that must be addressed. This is especially important if the mentor and mentee have limited time for their meetings.
  • Secondly, an agenda helps to structure the conversation. This can be helpful for both parties to ensure that the meeting is productive and efficient.
  • Lastly, it serves as a reminder for both parties of what topics need to be discussed. This is especially helpful if the mentor and mentee meet for the first time and are still getting to know each other.

A few key topics should be discussed in a career mentoring relationship to make the most of it. However, these discussion topics for career mentoring relationships vary depending on the mentorship structure.

For example, in a traditional mentoring relationship, the mentor may provide guidance on topics such as:

  • Mastering new skills
  • Advancing in your career
  • Exploring new job opportunities
  • Developing your professional network

On the other hand, in a reverse mentoring relationship, where young people become mentors and leaders become mentees, the focus may be on topics such as:

  • Using new technology
  • Staying current with trends in your industry
  • Gaining  a fresh perspective from different generations in the workplace

If the mentor is preparing a high potential employee for a leadership position, the topics may include:

  • Growing leadership skills
  • How to give feedback
  • How to handle difficult conversations
  • Delegation and time management
  • Communication and conflict resolution skills
  • Goal setting and achieving results
  • Fostering creativity and innovation
  • Creating a motivating and inspiring work environment

The key is to tailor the discussion topics to the mentee's needs, keeping in mind the goals of the mentorship.


How to start a career mentoring program

To start a successful mentoring program—first, you need to find the right people to be mentors and mentees. You do this by looking for people who share similar interests or goals or have complementary skill sets.

Once you've found the right people, set some ground rules for the program. This includes:

  • How often the meetings will take place
  • What topics will be discussed, and
  • The expectations for both parties.

Over the years, we've found that one of the biggest challenges for companies starting mentoring programs is that they mistakenly pair people who don't fit together. Or they find it hard to develop a model for the perfect pairing.

Together makes it easy to match mentors and mentees. Our mentoring platform also helps program managers automate key steps in starting a successful mentoring program. These steps include:

  • An algorithm that pairs employees who are perfect fits for each other
  • The ability to set goals and track progress
  • Resources to help mentors and mentees get the best out of the program
  • Integrations with your email and calendar that make setting up meetings a breeze
  • A platform that makes it easy for mentors and mentees to check in with each other and track progress.

We've also prepared a comprehensive guide on the steps to starting a mentoring program.

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Want incredible results from your mentorship program? Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.