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How to Self-Match With A Mentoring Program

Self-matching combines the benefits of algorithmic pairing and the agency of mentees or mentors. Here's how to let mentee's choose their own mentors within a mentoring program.

Finding someone at work to support and encourage you - and challenge you - is one of the best ways to develop your skills and reach your goals. Most often, this type of relationship is a mentoring one. Mentorships can be powerful and influential connections that have a positive impact for years. 

Mentoring matching is one of the essential factors that can lead to successful mentorship. Matches must be done right but they don’t always have to be controlled by the mentoring program manager. Many workplace mentorship programs have a formal matching process, but sometimes mentees will need to find a match themselves. This type of situation is called self-matching.

Some workplace mentoring programs allow a mentee to select their mentor, either from their network or from a list of participants. This self-matching option can have many benefits, including giving the mentee more control over the mentorship. Having more of a say in who they get matched with can also cultivate greater engagement from mentors and mentees. 

What is Self-Matching?

Many mentees already know what they are looking for in a mentor before they sign up for the program. It can be an advantage and an excellent time to let them take the lead. 

Creating a successful mentorship can feel like a challenge, but there are some essential elements that can help build a successful mentorship.  Mentees who self-match often develop more productive relationships. It can also save a mentoring program manager time and energy. 

However, mentees may have trouble initiating the relationship and will need the guidance of program managers. In other situations, a mentor may initiate the relationship and pick their mentee. 

One of the benefits of self matching is that participants feel more control over their match and often can make the best choice on their own. Putting mentors or mentees in control over the matching and the relationship puts the onus on them and may lead to higher engagement levels. 

How self matching with mentor software works

Mentoring software can still help mentees who are self-matching find the right mentor. These are algorithms that the program will use to help you find a match quickly. You can also add your requirements for creating a match, which enables you to find someone that fits your needs.

Using mentoring software in a self-matching situation is still a great way to simplify the mentoring program. It can also benefit program managers by ensuring that a good match is made.

Mentors and mentees can still fill in registration forms that collect important information used to create a participant profile. Information such as location, position within a company, experience, skills, etc., can be useful when it comes time for mentors or mentees to pick the match they want. 

Participants can also input their specific requirements for a match, which will help the program identify potential matches. Once a list of possible matches is developed, participants can then make the final decision on who they want to build a mentorship with.

Downsides to self-matching

Although there are many benefits to self-matching, it may not always be the right choice in every situation. There are some scenarios where self-matching is not possible or ideal, such as:

  • a mentoring program has been designed that relies on specific mentor-mentee matches
  • Introverted mentors may struggle to approach someone to ask them to be a mentor
  • The organization wants control over matches

Tips for self-matching

Sometimes the ideal mentor is someone the mentee already knows. But sometimes it is not. There are some tips for successful self-matching:

  1. Understand mentee’s goals. A mentee should know what they want to accomplish in the short term and the long term. Having clearly defined goals and specific steps to achieve them makes it easier to find the right mentor-match. 
  2. Identify current role models. Is there someone in the organization that the mentee already looks up to? Are they hoping to take over a role/job from someone else in the company? Is the mentee a minority that could benefit from the guidance of another underrepresented group in the business? 
  3. Review the mentee’s network. There may already be an informal mentor in a mentees network. This relationship can be formalized through a company program. Perhaps there is an individual that the mentee already feels connected to? The more a mentor understands the skill, abilities, background, and experience of a mentee, the better equipped they will be to mentor them. 
  4. Making the connection. Asking someone to be a mentor can be a little stressful. However, if a mentee can develop a pitch to a mentor, it can take some tension away. Let a mentor know what time commitment is expected, as well as what a mentee wants or expects from the relationship. Starting with good communication can put the mentorship off on the right path. 
  5. Handling cold-emails. If the chosen mentor does not already have a connection with a mentee, consider asking for an informative interview first. An initial meeting can help both the mentee and potential mentor understand each other more. It can also lead to a more thoughtful decision when it comes to finding the right match. 

Mentoring and matching

Creating a successful mentorship revolves around getting a good mentor match. There are several ways that mentees can find a good mentor in their workplace. Approaching people they admire, sending cold-emails, or even considering role models in their network. Self-matching can help empower the mentee and mentor in a workplace mentoring program. Giving them some control over the match can also lead to higher engagement and a more productive relationship in the long-term. 

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Download our Whitepaper on Best Practices for Running A Mentorship Program

We draw from the first-hand experience of managers at various companies leading mentoring programs and our own expertise to outline the best practices for running a mentorship program. This white paper is a comprehensive guide to help you build a world-class mentoring program.