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Written by: Cindy Lynn Roche, CPHR

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." Steven Spielberg

Mentoring in Career Path Programs

The use of formal and informal mentoring programs by individuals and organizations has increased with greater awareness of the factors that play into career development. When mentoring is included as a formal, structured, component of career pathing programs, organizations have the opportunity to maximize the skills and knowledge they want to cultivate, as well as a chance to choose their influencers and pair them with individuals eager to learn and grow. Whether the mentor-pairing is with people in the same or different fields, as each shares experiences and ideas, they touch on core competencies that are reinforced through thoughtful conversation, reflection and making-adaptable-sense to apply lesson learned through a purposeful relationship.

Organizations implementing a mentoring program may want to formalize it in order to develop a solution that runs effectively and addresses the business goals. A program whose results can be measured to look at its impact on the people, the business and the organization’s broader objectives. Decide early in the planning stage what success will look like, so that the design accommodates it – what’s the intent and focus, who are the participants and how will they be recruited, how are mentoring partner pairings to be decided, is participation optional or a mandatory requirement? What do mentors and mentee/protégées need to know to, over what period of time will the mentoring partnerships extend and what milestones should be marked? How will the program be coordinated, are there logistics to consider, are the metrics set, will there be on-going evaluation and a post-implementation review included?

In the context of a career pathing strategy, a mentoring program provides a forum to bring together strong experience with high potential, to the mutual benefit of each and to the greater benefit of the organization. Senior employees can be tapped as mentors to work with individuals interested in taking charge of their professional future. For mentors, there is the benefit of developing leadership skills and the chance to consider the specifics of experience in the context of using it to empower someone to grow in their own career. For the protégée, or mentee, the inherent appeal is the opportunity to learn from somebody who has considerably more experience, greater business acumen, broader knowledge, more skill and had the wherewithal to manoeuver in a progressive trajectory along the chosen path. The mentoring relationship allows the participants to develop trust, share insights, build networks and appreciate the lessons of experience, which ultimately influences career path planning and the organization’s opportunity (responsibility?) to develop the people they have into the team they want and need.

"If I hadn't had mentors, I wouldn't be here today. I'm a product of great mentoring, great coaching... Coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone--your husband, other family members, or your boss." – Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo

More information about mentoring and career pathing programs, and some fantastic resources, are available online and in bookstores – the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and MindTools.Com both offer practical information and effective tools to help you get people-plans moving forward.