I remember it like it was yesterday. I was working at my first internship and everyone kept asking me if I had a mentor.
Being new to the professional world, I was instantly worried because I didnít know if I had one. The reality was, I had plenty of mentors, but my lack of understanding of what a mentor was kept me from realizing how many strong relationships I had already built and how many mentors I had encountered in my short professional career.
Mentorship can be a different experience for those involved and recognize and maintaining these relationships can be complicated. Here, Iíll break down some of the most common forms of mentorship Iíve found to be beneficial.
Peer mentorship is arguably one of the least recognized or under-appreciated forms of mentorship, but one of the most valuable. Because it tends to be a more casual, collaborative relationship, people donít realize that it is actually a form of mentorship. A peer mentor is someone with a similar level of professional or life experience with whom you share a supportive, and oftentimes lateral, relationship.
Peer mentors typically provide a sense of teammate-to-teammate comfort and shared experience.
The informal Interaction is typically less intimidating than with senior colleagues and provides the basis for a more reciprocal relationship, which sometimes makes it easier to maintain.
The main challenge that peer mentorship presents is the potential for competition and conflict. When working toward similar goals, it is easy to begin comparing yourself to your peers and creating unpleasant tension. Communicate issues with your peers openly and directly to avoid making the issue more complicated than it needs to be. Help alleviate conflict by giving credit to co-workers and building each other up while establishing your own unique role in your organization.
Formal mentorship traditionally involves pairing up with a colleague or professional contact with more or different experiences than yours to consult with regarding career growth and professional development. This mentor is someone you can seek out when you have important decisions to make or need advice on how to handle complicated situations at work. While it may be a manager or supervisor, this mentor doesn't necessarily need to be a co-worker.
With more worldly and professional experience, formal mentors can sometimes provide more guidance and wisdom than peer mentors. Their ďbeen there, done thatĒ point of view allows them to share advice based on successes (or failures) they have encountered during their careers.
However, more formal mentors may be less accessible than peer mentors. This makes arranging meetings and communicating regularly more difficult. Scheduling challenges can be resolved by establishing a consistent meeting schedule. Send your mentor a recurring calendar reminder for bi-weekly, monthly, or even quarterly meetings to ensure that you always have a spot on their schedule (while showing initiative on your end!).
I am so fortunate to have realized the value that mentors can provide to professional growth. In my relatively short time as a professional, I have had the opportunity to learn from mentors in a variety of fields and with a variety of experiences. The diversity of that experience has benefited my own growth and will continue to play a vital role in my career. †
This blog originally appeared on the Early Stage Professionals blog.