Get a hand from a mentor
Developing the capability to execute on organizational transformation efforts is something I’ve spoken on at great length in my writing, speaking, and with clients. I’ve also talked of my belief that you can prepare your organization to thrive in the midst of change by focusing your organizational development efforts on the skills and abilities that apply to this capability. Mentoring is another way that organizations can help facilitate this type of professional growth for staff. One of the great drivers of value for mentoring is that it usually spans a longer period of time than traditional corporate training and educational offerings. It is often more responsive to specific needs and tailored because of the personal nature of the interaction. I have discussed in my previous post, “Mentors: Identifying & Leveraging Mentors,” the qualities which make a great mentor for you. In this post I’ll be more focused on the main forms of mentoring; essentially paid and unpaid, and the positives and negatives associated with both.
Unpaid mentoring is the type that most people will have had experience with over the course of their careers. If you have been fortunate enough to have a senior staff member, family friend, or other person provide you with advice and insight that is focused on improving you and helping you to succeed in achieving your goals, you’ve had a mentoring experience. The greatest part about the unpaid mentor experience is that often they are driven out of a very genuine concern for you as an individual. They can be an outgrowth from, or lead to life long relationships that greatly enhance your personal development and professional growth. On the negative side, the quality of the advice provided by unpaid mentors may very greatly because this is not something they have developed as a professional service. Availability may also be an issue because the mentoring needs to occur during times in which the mentor is free, which may or may not coincide with your timing and need for advice.
Paid mentoring is more rare and usually reserved for more senior executives. Sometimes mentoring will be included as part of training or educational packages, as a mechanism for ensuring that participants are able to leverage what was learned in class on behalf of the organization. I am a great believer in this type of pairing in terms of getting value from training dollars. This usually leads to a greater training ROI because the mentor can help the you put your training to use in your context, but this is usually not long term enough to foster professional growth over the long term. Paid mentoring, or coaching that is of the more traditional nature, can be an enormous benefit to individuals working within an organization because they are looking specifically at how to support and enhance your professional development. They are generally more available given that they are being paid to support your requirements and you often have the opportunity to more specifically tailor the characteristics you are looking for in a paid mentor than you would in an unpaid situation. I want to focus on this last characteristic because it is important. One of the single greatest advantages to paid mentoring is the ability to choose from a much larger mentor pool and get someone who specifically meets your needs. This may mean domain expertise relevant to your field, executive experience in environments like the one you are working in or similar career arcs to what you are hoping to follow. On the negative side, all of this choice and the generally high quality of the product comes with what is usually a hefty price tag. Full time executive coaches may charge by the hour or provide packages on a quarterly or other time unit basis that roughly ties back to contact hours plus research.
As expressed in my earlier post on mentors, “Mentors: Identifying & Leveraging Mentors,” I am a real believer in mentoring as a means of professional development. Depending on where you are in the organization and how your organization approaches organizational development, you may or may not have access to paid mentoring. If not, it may still be worth looking into paid mentoring on your own as there is real power in having access to someone who is an expert in your field, has fought the battles you have yet to fight, and who may be able to provide real insight into how to maximize your potential. For all the same reasons you should always be on the lookout for unpaid mentoring opportunities. I have always been amazed at the willingness of so many people to play a real role in guiding people forward in their careers without any compensation beyond the satisfaction that comes with working to help someone else move their career forward. As someone who has personally benefited from the willingness of others to give freely of their time to move my career forward, I think everyone should be receptive to opportunities to receive mentoring. I also enjoy playing the mentoring role to others where I have had the opportunity and I try to accommodate this to the degree I’m able because I have received so much from so many over the years.
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