Tag Archives: #mentoring

A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could. ~ Unknown

 Employee to Human Resources: I want to get ahead on my job and I don't know how or where to start. What can I do to make myself more visible?

Job security is at an all-time low these days. Layoffs are rumored; hiring and salary freezes abound; bonuses and annual raises are delayed. For those who are sticking it out and their morale is getting low, what can they do to elevate their visibility; increase their skills set and/or increase their promotability?

As an advisor, I always encourage continuing education. In these times, some firms have cut back on this benefit of reimbursement for education, but many have not. Check with Human Resources and find out what their current benefits entail. Some firms pay 100% reimbursement for a passing grade, including books, tuition, and fees. There's no better deal than this; it's equivalent to getting a super raise. Plus, you will add higher learning and certified skill sets to your existing position. Many companies offer courses pertinent to your position, ie, computer courses for a computer analyst; legal courses for paralegals, etc. If you look into it, you may find that many companies are agreeable to allow courses not related to your job position to promote diversification of an employee's skill. I can't champion it enough - continuing education is a great benefit bestowed on employees by companies - don't let it pass you by.

The other thing I always encourage is networking. Networking is the process of gathering information and discovery through interactions with other people. You can network at company-given seminars, in-house training programs, local community-sponsored organizations that pertain to your discipline, ie, NALA ( (National Association of Legal Assistants). Every discipline at work has a professional organization that they support to keep abreast of changing laws and updating relevant information - your supervisor can enlighten you as to which ones they use. You can network at professional organizations in the community not associated with your workplace (Woman Business Leaders of Oshkosh) (Professional Businessmen Association) or you can join an Alumni Association associated with your college. There are many such organizations out there and joining one will add prestige to your resume. And keep you on top of current issues in your field and especially network other professionals like yourself for sharing of business ideas and work-related opportunities for advancement.

A big plus to an employee's advancement is to engage a mentor. As I mentioned in my article on mentoring I designed, implemented and managed my department's mentoring program. The first thing we did was have the interested employees fill out a questionnaire on what skills they would like to learn, what disciplines they wanted to learn them and how would that help them in their present position. We sent a similar questionnaire to management asking them if they were interested in mentoring, sharing their business experience and how much time could they offer. When we got the questionnaires back, we set up a spreadsheet and matched the employee's desired skills and other departments of interest to the offering management team mentors. On paper, we set up a match. As we all know, personalities play a large part in relationships and it is important that the mentor and mentee mesh. We then set up a wine and cheese get-together after working hours and invited the mentors and mentees. They mingled and discussed the program as well as getting to know the players. There are always 'situations' at work where some groups do not get along as well as they do with other groups. Some department heads don't see eye to eye. This is human nature. You wouldn't want to match up a mentee who's boss did not get along with the mentor. Somehow these things put a wrench in things and thank goodness, they are few in number but they do sometimes exist.

After the get-together, we sent the names of a possible mentee to a mentor and in most cases, it was a go. Then we set the ground rules for both of them. To prevent assumed expectations on both ends, we made a list of guidelines. These guidelines included:

1) Mentor and mentee drawing up an agreement consisting of shared roles and responsibilities; determining length of mentoring term (6 months to one year) and meeting times according to their work schedules. (Mentoring was done during work hours with approval of supervisors).

2) Evaluating the relationship at various points (at least mid-point and ending) within the agreed-upon time period.

3) Working out any minor concerns about the relationship; assuring to keep confidences and setting goals and making plans on how to accomplish goals.

4) Mentors using their knowledge, experience and background accomplishments as examples to help mentee identify and build on their own strengths.

5) Mentees showing initiative in planning their career, perhaps by writing a personal statement about goals and accomplishments.

6) Both parties utilizing listening skills in discussions.

7) Providing feedback from both mentor and mentee on their accomplishments, and how each derived organizational growth from their role.

Many companies encourage mentoring as a human resource development strategy. It could lead to a promotion or lateral move to another discipline to acquire additional specialized skills/information as a step to a promotion.

If you are considering being a mentee, it is an outstanding vehicle to learn the ins and outs of the higher level of management. You can also learn business acumen in how different specialized departments like Purchasing, Security, Tax work closely with other departments. This gives you an overall flow of how an organization is run and will aid you not only in your own department, but in future ones.

For the mentor, it is a chance to channel his or her experience onto a protégé, who could in the future become a longtime ally or associate; it hones your leadership skills; it gives something back to the company in transferring business-specific knowledge and perhaps fulfilling company needs; it gives the mentor the opportunity to overview his/her own present skills, goals and accomplishments in a new-eyes light. He or she may even discover areas where they, too, may improve.

For both, it will enhance their listening and business skills. If the mentor invites the mentee to attend one of his meetings, both will 'see' the meeting through their business eyes and their mentoring relationship eyes. This can result in valuable insights to both.

There are so many positives to mentoring that I can't think of many negative ones. It rarely, but could be a problem in the mentor's or mentee's personal behaviors, ie, conflicting meetings that interfere with the mentoring schedule; forgetting or being late for their meetings, being preoccupied with other matters while they are meeting, allowing interruptions or distractions, etc. The majority of relationships through our program were equally courteous, prompt, and best of all, enjoyed.

If you have mentoring program, by all means, join it. It has countless advantages and one day, you too, may be asked to be a mentor. It's a high compliment. If you don't have a formal program, be proactive, schedule a meeting with and ask a manager or director if they would consider being your mentor. You would have to do the ground work and draw up the agreement and schedules, but you can get different programs in the library or online. Good luck and prosperous sharing

©Marie Coppola  August 2014


 Can you remember a time when someone gave you support, or important counsel, sound advice or positive reinforcement on something you were doing?

Encouragement is an important support and guidance motivation given by a more knowledgeable person (such as a mentor) in helping a less experienced or knowledgeable person (mentee) to develop in some capacity.

Many times, parents are mentors. They have the experience and know-how in "How the World Turns". They may have gone to college, experienced love relationships, had children, bought houses, paid taxes, and countless other things. Hopefully, they are good mentors who encourage, support and guide their children in their everyday challenges. Sometimes, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or good family members are mentors. They are the ones to go to when one needs to know what can be done about a special issue; they either give good advice or advise options on how to work at it. We are indeed blessed if we have mentors in our lives.

What if we don't have a mentor? There are occasions when 'two heads are better than one' and additional input is needed. How does one acquire a mentor? Are there different avenues or vehicles for finding one? Yes, there are.

There are personal mentors and organizational mentors.

The personal mentor: Sometime during your lifetime, someone may take a special interest in how you are accomplishing a task. It may be in a teacher or principal in school. It could be a leader or coach in an activity in an athletic or after-school activity. Or a girl or boy scout leader in a social club. Or perhaps a pastor or spiritual leader in a church affiliation. A mentor is usually someone older and more accomplished in the task you are endeavoring. He/she will give you feedback on how you are accomplishing; give you advice or hints/solutions on how to continue; or reinforce how you are progressing. This is a one-on-one relationship which lasts over the time of the task's duration.

You might even seek someone out and ask them to be your mentor on a task. It doesn't hurt to ask. Most people like to help and may feel honored that you chose them. If the person is agreeable, you could set up a schedule to go over the progress of what you are doing and the mentor can advise plusses and minuses. Depending on the personalities, this person could become a life-long mentor who can aid you in further tasks. Sometimes it evolves into a mentoring over a variety of life's issues. Such an arrangement can benefit both the mentor and the mentee. And form a very special, honored relationship.

A mentor can be rewarded by watching the mentee 'grow' in his mastery of overcoming or attaining the reason for the guidance. The mentee can be rewarded by achieving the self esteem and confidence of mastering what he overcomes or attains. I have to note that a mentor does not want to live the life for the mentee and should set the tone to make sure that the mentee does not become dependent on the mentor's good will. A mentor should not have to listen to lamenting and negative inputs. The mentor is there to support and guide, not encourage 'wallow and whine'.

The organizational mentor:  Wikipedia defines mentor as:

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)" (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007).

It is actually an agreement between a less experienced worker (mentee) and a business guru (mentor) in the company. Both understand that the purpose is for the mentor, through his or her own job experiences, to supply support and guidance to the mentee to aid in his/her career development. This is accomplished through human resource procedures which include matching temperaments, sharing written expectations, schedule guidelines, written goals and performance feedback.

Since they are 'gurus' in the company, mentors may be department heads or V-Ps and are giving up a slice of time from their busy schedules. They have worked hard to acquire business acumen and their schedules should be respected and not abused. One must never forget or not show for a mentor/mentee meeting. If there is a conflict, his/her office should be notified timely. Nor should a mentee use the mentor's time to complain about the company or their personal gripes. This is a business meeting and although personal info sharing may arise, it is a meeting to combine goals and ambitions into work performance and advancement.

Most mentors who agree to programs like this show a desire and a willingness to give up time to help others, maintain a positive outlook, and are able to be realistic. Some business gurus may have mentoring as an objective on their own goals from their bosses if they need 'soft skills' in communicating with employees. They may need to hone up on listening skills and will thus have a strong interest in their own growth and self-development as well as their mentee. Business gurus usually have success orientation. That's why they are where they are.

During my career development activities, I designed, implemented and maintained a mentoring program. I worked mainly with a department that encompassed state of the art technically skilled employees. These employees, in order to acquire additional integral business skills, development and promotion possibilities, had a distinct need to explore inter-related business disciplines.

For those who had interest, mentoring exchanges were established with them and department heads such as Finance, Security, Legal, Logistics, Purchasing, E-Commerce, or wherever their interests were. It was very successful for those who were determined and focused. Some of them, with their sought-after technical skills were offered positions in the departments of their choice who had a need for the technical end of the specialized business. They are all inter-related at some point. And it helped the company reduce lay-offs by transferring valuable but excess tech persons to another discipline. A discipline that they were not only interested in, but had the background and experience of already knowing the company procedures. A win-win. This project was one of the most satisfying of all my projects to view first-hand, the many positive aspects and results of these relationships.

In another article on mentoring, I will outline the agreement arrangements between mentors and mentees and what each expects or should expect from the other.

© Marie Coppola  August 2014