How Mentorship Can Expand Your Network

Workplace mentoring programs offer a lot of benefits for the mentee, mentor, and even the organization.

Over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs. These companies benefit from:

  • Having lower employee turnover
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Strong employee skill sets and leadership qualities
  • More positive work atmosphere

Moreover, employees who participate in workplace mentoring programs can benefit from

  • Expanding their skills
  • Leadership development
  • Succession planning
  • Networking

The idea of networking can often make some people feel uneasy. The word alone can bring up images of insincere sales pitches or blatant self-promotion. But it shouldn’t be that way. The essence of networking is to genuinely connect with others. There should be a supportive relationship where a useful exchange of information is made. While there may be some uncomfortableness around the idea of networking, the reality is that it is still one of the best ways to uncover job opportunities or stay informed about industry news. When unsure, networking on LinkedIn is a great way to get started.

A LinkedIn study found that 80 percent of people believe that networking is vital for career success. A further 70 percent of respondents were working at a company where they had a network connection.  

Building a network is not always easy. It takes time and effort to build connections and trust with others. Workplace mentorships are able to help the networking process by allowing mentees the opportunity to benefit from a mentor’s contacts. Moreover, both mentors and mentees can strengthen their interpersonal skills by working on networking activities together. 

What is a network?

Investopedia defines networking as “the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest.” The benefits listed include uncovering job opportunities, expanding their list of contacts, and gaining knowledge about news or trends for an industry. 

Networking can happen either in-person when two individuals connect either at work, a conference, or at a workshop. They will often exchange contact details and stay in touch, creating a mutually advantageous relationship. But, it can also happen online through social networks like LinkedIn or Twitter. And, those involved in a workplace mentoring program can also add connections from their mentor’s network. 

As important as networking is to build a successful career, it is essential to remember that it is a skill that needs to be developed. Therefore, mentors should avoid pressuring mentees to network. In the same way, a mentee should not demand that a mentor make introductions to a network contact. Rather, a mentee can request that build a network be one of the goals they work on during the mentorship. 

How Mentorship Can Help You Network

Having a mentor at work can have several advantages, including expanding your network. This can happen in a couple of different ways including:

  1. Use a mentor’s network - The most direct way that a mentee can benefit from their mentor’s network is to add the contacts to their own network. Mentors can help their mentees by introducing them to key people in their network. Consider individuals that could help a mentee find a job or help boost their career. But, it doesn’t have to be all work-related either. Connecting mentees to people that can help them grow personally or support them through some challenges can also be a useful way to network. Introductions can be made at networking events, training sessions, or in a one-on-one scenario such as a coffee date. But, be sure that the mentee and network contact are aware that the introduction will be taking place. 
  2. Networking skill development - Another great way that mentees can expand their network through mentoring programs is networking skill development. Mentors can guide their mentees to be better at networking by training them to develop key skills like empathy. For this to be effective, the mentor will need to be intentional and have a strategy for passing the knowledge along. In addition, a mentee must also be prepared to work on their networking skills. Mentors can also benefit from helping mentees develop better networking skills. For some mentors, it can be a refresher course on the best networking techniques. During the mentorship, mentors can offer advice on the best networking strategies. Mentors can consider what worked best for them and teach it to their mentees. 
  3. Encouragement - Mentors can also help encourage mentees to search for networking opportunities. This may include local groups or associations that offer business networking events. Mentors and mentees could attend some of these events together so the mentee can build their networking skills and contacts. 

Best Networking Practices

Being able to benefit from a mentor’s connections is a good way for mentees to grow their network. However, there are some things to keep in mind when trying to get the most value from a network. These include:

Give back - Networking is not just about how to get something.  Rather, building a network should begin by giving something of value to a new contact. Consider it like putting a deposit into the relationship to create some goodwill and bond. 

Balance - Strive to have a balanced relationship with network contacts. It should be a mutually beneficial relationship. That means, contacts should feel comfortable asking for something as well as giving something. 

Professional - Being professional is vital for networking. That means, offering constructive feedback when it is called for and avoiding talking badly about anyone. This will help build a strong reputation among network contacts. 

Networking is essential to a successful career. Being able to draw on the network of a mentor can give mentees an advantage, particularly if they have just started at a new company. Drawing on the expertise and network connections of a mentor can be life-changing. 

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