At Career Moves we are big believers in the power of shared knowledge and we are huge advocates of mentorship. Mentorship can sometimes feel like a buzzword being thrown around on LinkedIn, however getting under the skin of just what it is and just how much it can benefit you is key to your future success and development. This is why we reached out to Katie O'Hare, Associate Consultant in L&D and HR at ViLO Consulting. Read Katie's own journey with mentorship, her key insights and how mentorship can help you achieve both personal and team goals.
Hi! I’m Katie and I’m a consultant in organisational and leadership development. I work with organisations and leadership teams to bring about improvement in leadership through training, coaching or development programmes; mentoring being one of these.
Before consultancy, I worked in HR and L&D in the corporate world for 16 years. Quite early on in my career I had a great mentor who helped me figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and I probably felt the benefit of that guidance for years to come. Cross-functional mentoring helps you to ‘grow up’ commercially. You learn how the world of work operates beyond your silo and get an objective voice from someone outside your own team.
My first ever mentor relationship happened more organically than formally, but I’ve also taken part in formal mentor programmes as both mentee and mentor. Formal mentoring involves a staged process of engagement, training (both mentors and mentees), matching and evaluation – the matching part is probably the most crucial. I’ve heard mentoring described as, “a synergistic relationship” and this really comes down to a robust matching process. This starts with a thorough application process that seeks all the right information from the applicant.
Being involved first- hand, has helped in the creation of my own mentoring programmes. So where do you start? The first consideration is the pool of people you’re aiming at – is it a wide application process or targeted to specific groups or levels? The second and key consideration is to define your goals and to share them as part of the onboarding process. Some general goals to mentoring are to support personal and professional skill development; to open doors for career advancement; to help employees navigate the unwritten rules of organisations or industry; to increase cross functional and commercial awareness. It’s also a great way for a mentor to ‘pay it forward.’ I can verify that having benefitted greatly from this process myself, it’s satisfying to be able to offer a mentee the same opportunities to learn and grow.
Mentoring is generally not a mandatory programme and while there may be programme goals, there are no binding contracts, so it requires both mentor and mentee commitment. Like any good relationship, it’s good practise to establish ‘ground-rules’ at the start. In this case sharing your expectations of how you’ll work together such as style, goals, where and when you’ll meet and what information you do (or don’t) share in confidence. It helps greatly for both parties (mentor and mentee) to consider their personal goals in this process. Like any goal-related activity, knowing what you’re aiming for is how commitment sticks. For a mentee, your goals will likely steer your conversations. For a mentor, be mindful of how this process supports your own development goals.
How does the mentor gain from this partnership? Apart from the gratification of helping others, you will learn more about your own leadership, gain a grater appreciation and recognition of your skills and experience, acquire a deeper and broader knowledge of the organisation or profession, and increase your leadership visibility - not a bad job description. While a mentor is usually the more experienced in the relationship, the most successful partnerships are reciprocal – a two-way process. This works when you enter into the partnership humble about what you don’t know, leaving ego at the door and being open to share social capital; whether that’s knowledge, information, or support.
A 2019 Forbes article described good mentoring as “A bridge between individual and organizational needs, between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.” Mentoring is individualised development that works in support of rather than in place of other formal training programmes. It’s a win-win for both the organisation and individual. It’s also been statistically linked to increased levels of retention and internal promotion, and a great way to support diversity and inclusion, with some mentoring programmes boosting minority representation at management levels.
There’s been an increase in mentoring over the last few years as organisations are seeing its value in supporting diversity and inclusion and engagement strategies. However, if mentoring programmes aren’t readily available to you, you can seek out opportunities to learn from others’ experience, knowledge or skills or use your network to find industry -based external programmes. Whether your mentoring experience is formal or informal, when you enter this process with purpose, you get unlimited access to recycled knowledge and experience that can’t be taught in a classroom or read in a leadership book!
Connect with Katie O'Hare today