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Take Me to Your Mentor

There are people out there who want to help.

Workers in today’s economy, naturally, are concerned about job security and career development. Employees must become proactive in attempting to deal with the change and economic upheaval in our ever-evolving workplace. They must assume the responsibility of managing their careers and finding the resources that will help them maintain their current employment, move up in the company hierarchy, and keep their skills current and marketable.

On an interpersonal level, employees are realizing that flatter organizations do not always provide an opportunity to move up in the world; lateral moves and skill development are becoming increasingly more important to career development. Also, managing one’s career can cause more pressure at home, as workers try to maintain their sense of marketability while trying to maintain a dual-income family. On an organizational level, employees are facing unstable work environments due to downsizing, mergers, and an increasing need for more productivity.

One tactic that workers can use to ease the burden is mentoring. Mentoring is being discovered by individuals and organizations as a way to build talent within an organization; provide another way to gain the knowledge needed to survive in today’s workplace; develop more productivity and company loyalty; and even enhance the bottom line. Mentoring is now a widely used formal/informal learning tool, and is used by companies to develop their employees throughout their various career stages.

The Center for Workforce Development reported in a recent study, after interviewing 1,000 employees in various organizations, that up to 70 percent of workplace learning occurs through informal interactions such as mentoring. Companies such as AT&T, Federal Express, General Motors, J.C. Penney, DuPont, Sun Microsystems, Merrill Lynch, and Charles Schwab have created a climate where mentoring is encouraged.

But what if your company doesn’t provide a formal mentoring program for you to gain knowledge that can help your career progress. What can be done? Below is a list of things that you can do to create your own mentoring relationships:

* Consider your mentor resources: Mentoring relationships take place between peers, work teams, co-workers, and people outside work; even professional associations serve as mentors to their membership. So think about who is in your current inner circle. Who has something to offer you through a career mentoring relationship? Make sure you choose someone you know you can trust.

* Network: Again, there may be people you know who might be able to serve as mentors. These people exist, and may be happy to serve as your mentor, but no connections will be made until you network and let people know that you are in the market.

* Establish the goals of your mentoring relationship: Is it to develop your leadership skills, or learn how to deal with company politics? Establishing these goals will give the relationship a purpose and direction. Consider your career needs and how you expect to benefit from your mentor.

* Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate: Periodically you and your mentor need to assess if the goals of the mentoring are being met, if so great. But if not, the mentoring needs to come to an end.

* Be grateful: Consider the mentor’s time and always thank them for helping you.

The benefits of mentoring include greater understanding of the company goals and objectives; increased competence through learning; career advancement; learning to continuously improve through constructive criticism and positive feedback; and the general value of meeting new people.

Have you considered ever being a mentor? Mentors benefit from the mentoring relationship, also. A mentor is exposed to diverse information that can benefit their understanding of other departmental functions. They also gain a sense of giving back, their skills and career are enhanced if they are open to learning from their proteges, and through new learning and increased visibility in the organization.

So go searching for a mentor or become a mentor, because mentoring really does matter and impacts your professional growth.

Felicia H. Vaughn, M.Ed. ([email protected]), is a certified career management coach. She works as a career consultant for REA Career Services Inc. and is COO of VaughnElite Corp.

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