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How to get the most out of a mentoring program

When Gartner Research compared the career progress of 1,000 or so employees at Sun Microsystems who had taken part in a mentoring program with those who had not, it uncovered some interesting results.

About 25 per cent of the employees involved in a mentoring program had advanced a salary grade over the five-year period of the study, compared to only 5 per cent of other staff.

Mentees really need to put in the work, be accountable and think strategically about what they want to get out of the program.

Employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than others. And staff members who were mentors were six times more likely to have advanced in their careers than those who hadn’t shared their wisdom in a mentoring program.

The results laid out some of the unexpected benefits of the mentor-mentee relationship. While mentees gain skills and knowledge from one who has been in their shoes, they also give the mentor an opportunity to develop important skills of their own.

The IML ANZ Mentor Program kicked off in 2014 with a goal to develop skills in management and leadership for all professional members. It matches mentors and mentees based on their experience, location and career goals, and what outcomes they want from the program. The pairings meet up regularly to share their expertise and experience, and to set goals for further development.

Unlike similar programs, IML ANZ’s mentoring program has no fee attached, and it has been recently enhanced to provide more structure and program guidance.

“We’ll be providing more support for mentees and mentors, such as mentoring insights, goal-setting tools, checklists and articles to support career development” explains Margot Smith, IML ANZ’s general manager – engagement . “Like many mentoring programs, the agenda and program objectives are to be driven by the mentee. The mentee will steer the four-month program, so you get out what you put in.”

Mentoring is a two-way commitment

Like any successful relationship, the one between a mentor and mentee requires commitment. Pauline Wearne, whose Membina consultancy gives advice on mentoring and career development, stresses that this commitment cuts both ways.

“Mentees really need to put in the work, be accountable and think strategically about what they want to get out of the program,” she advises.

“Mentors must have a genuine desire to work with an individual and support and nurture them. They shouldn’t set out to fix a problem for a mentee but to guide them. They need to put their ego aside and appreciate the altruistic benefits.”

While the satisfaction of giving back is one of the benefits that come from mentoring, it’s also a chance for mentors to build up their profile in their industry and an opportunity to learn something new.

“Mentees really need to put in the work, be accountable and think strategically about what they want to get out of the program.”

“They can discover what people in their profession are dealing with at the moment and overlay that with their own experience,” explains Wearne. “It’s a chance to reflect on their career and think about what they would have done differently.”

The benefits for mentees include access to independent advice from an experienced professional, as well as potential networking opportunities.

“Mentees get to explore ideas, opportunities and knowledge that may be limited in their own workplace. They feel safer saying what’s on their mind than they may in their own workplace. They can also try ideas out without risk,” Wearne says.

She believes the most effective mentor-mentee relationships happen when there is a mutual interest and respect. “Both parties need to be very present. There needs to be transparent dialogue. When you meet up, you need to park whatever is going on outside the relationship. You both need to be proactive in listening. Don’t check your phone or think about the deals going on at work.”

Interested in joining the the Institute of Managers and Leaders Mentor Program as a mentor or mentee? Click here.

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