Most of us have a traditional view of mentoring: a relationship where a senior leader counsels a junior coworker. The senior leader provides various types of support: advice, career development, networking opportunities, and possibly exposure and visibility. This long-held thought of mentoring is that it creates career-promoting opportunities to anyone lucky enough to be invited to participate.
These days, mentoring is taking on a fresh look. It no longer needs to be hierarchical; instead, mentoring is about building productive relationships where individuals learn and share together. Mentoring is about teaching what you know to another person. It provides an avenue for knowledge, competency, and skill development, and supports ongoing individual career growth.
The playing field is now level and learning can be shared between any two individuals. Imagine: Marketing can learn from IT and IT can learn from Marketing. Baby boomers can learn from millennials and millennials can learn from baby boomers. The match-ups are limitless: Differences in job levels, age, function, diversity, tenure, or culture can all provide rich learning grounds. The mentor relationship can take place at work or from any area of your life.
A guide to peer mentoring
Start by identifying your specialty or skill. Be prepared to discuss the benefits you bring to the peer-mentoring relationship. Then create a list of skills you’d like to learn - current skill needs and future interests.
Identify a peer
If you have a productive relationship with your manager, review your plan and gain support in finding a peer mentor. Your manager may be able to identify possible peer mentors, providing recommendations and introductions for you.
You shouldn’t solely rely on your manager. Get the word out and don’t be shy about asking around. Ask your existing network; between everyone you know and everyone they know, you will find a wealth of possible peer mentors.
Structure the peer-mentoring relationship
Find your peer mentor and discuss fit; it’s important to be comfortable with each other. Agree on the length of your peer-mentoring relationship. Three to six months is a great start. You can always continue as long as the relationship is productive and meaningful to both mentors.
Agree on how often to meet. Twice a month can work or you may want to meet once a month for a couple of hours. Whatever works for both of you; flexibility is key.
Create a simple agreement that outlines expectations, goals, and metrics to make sure both of you are aligned and can track your accomplishments.
Meet with your peer mentor. Put into action what you are learning. Regularly share the benefits of your peer mentorship with your manager and your colleagues.
Peer mentoring is as simple as you want to make it. Is there someone that you admire and would like to learn from? What do you have to offer? Propose a peer mentorship outlining both your interests and selling your expertise. Take charge of your development. Run with it!