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Why you should be thinking differently about mentoring

Voco Team

What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘mentor’? A grey-haired expert investing their time in advising the younger generation? A senior colleague helping a more junior one navigate the workplace? Yoda? 

These traditional views of mentors are what most people think they need when seeking the support and advice of others in relation to their careers. And while, when done well, such relationships might be very effective - especially when battling the Dark Side - these classic partnerships are not the only way to skin the mentoring cat.

According to a poll by Quartz and JP Morgan, 83% of successful executives think having a mentor helped them move forward in their careers. But that doesn’t mean that all mentoring relationships need to follow a traditional pattern. In fact, when you untether the idea of mentoring from hierarchical constraints, it can actually be even more effective.

Peer, what?

Peer-based mentoring relationships, where partnerships are comprised of people at roughly the same point in their careers, can be extremely valuable and rewarding. Not only do they create more equal, mutual exchanges of advice and expertise, they also offer the benefit of providing real-time, relevant insights into specific challenges or opportunities. 

Being at pretty much the same career place at the same time can help build empathy and understanding at lightning speed, and having a co-traveller with whom to navigate your career path can transform an often lonely journey into a shared endeavour.

Having career conversations with your peers, rather than the ‘great and the good’, can also massively increase availability and accessibility. Not only are there likely to be more people available to talk to and learn from, there’ll probably also be more diversity in thought and experience at a peer level too. 

And because you don’t feel like you’re asking someone more senior for a favour, or for some of their limited, precious time, talking with a peer can remove some of the biggest barriers to access for effective mentoring.

Finally, studies have shown that peer mentoring relationships can actually have more longevity than classic ones, and that they can be more helpful as you progress to more senior levels within your career.

Turning the tables

In addition to building really effective peer-based mentoring relationships, reverse mentoring can be another really valuable input into your career journey. By connecting with people at any earlier career stage than you, particularly those who have entered the workplace more recently, or who have grown-up with different access to technology, you can increase your own understanding of the latest trends, as well as the challenges younger employees face, and the ways they like to work. 

Reverse mentoring also breaks down traditional top-down hierarchies and gives a voice to emerging talent, while increasing empathy and connection across generations within the workforce.

Micro not macro

Not all mentoring relationships have to be long term. Sometimes, finding someone inspiring and experienced to talk to about a specific, time-limited subject can unlock progress in the short-term and set you on the right path. Embracing the idea of micro-mentorships can also make you more flexible about your goals and more dynamic in your thinking about how to achieve them, while also giving you the adding advantage of quickly building your network by connecting with a range of people for really crunchy, defined conversations.

Squad goals

It’s also important to look beyond simply finding one mentor to guide you through the world of work. Having a personal board of directors for your career can be really crucial to getting the success you want as each advisor can bring something new and fresh to your thinking. 

You don’t need to tell people that they’re on your ‘board’ and you can switch up who you turn to for advice as your career changes and evolves, but the key thing to keep in mind is that you want to build a team of objective advisors who can challenge you, support you, introduce you to new ideas or people, or simply be there when you need a sounding board. Just avoid adding your current boss or your best mate!

By joining Voco you can meet a diverse range of peers for structured and effective conversations about how to take control of your career and get what you want from work.

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