Becoming a Mentor

Becoming a Mentor

Traditionally, a mentor was someone senior who helped those who were junior build skills and make connections.  Often, they were expected to be major "advocates" of a mentee, often lasting for an entire career.

Today, mentors come at all levels of the organization and provide a variety of things for mentees. Two of the newest "mentor" roles are 1. Mentoring "up" and, 2.  a "short term" mentor to gain a new behavior. Here's how they work:

1.    Mentoring "up" consists of pairing a high potential in a lower rank (often several levels below) to a more senior Vice President or C-level Executive.  In this case, the senior employee wants to learn about a new technology or product in order to gain perspective or, in some cases, skills such as how to use social media effectively.  The junior employee mentors up and they both gain insight into each other's point of view.  This can create relationships that help retain the high potential as well as sharpen the senior employee's skills.
2.    A short-term mentor is just that-a person chosen because they have specific skills and behaviors that a peer or more junior employee desires to attain.  This can last just a few months.  Short term mentoring is most effective when the skill is clearly defined by both-for instance, the ability to defuse tension in a participative discussion where there are conflicting and strongly held points of view.  The short-term mentor is not expected to be a career advocate, although they may voluntarily become one.