Career Resources

Mentoring Mechanics

Mentoring today may no longer involve a lifetime relationship, but such partnerships can still be a reliable method to enhance your professional development. If this approach to learning appeals to you, then consider the following tips before starting your search for a mentor.

Finding a mentor

There are generally two ways to find a mentor—through organized mentoring programs or through your own research and networking efforts. Sometimes organizations make mentoring for its employees part of their overall executive development strategy. If yours does, by all means take advantage of the opportunity if it is available to you.

If your employer does not provide mentoring opportunities, there are other options. Your professional organization or society may support a mentoring program. At ACHE, being a mentor is one of the options available to Diplomates working on advancement to FACHE status. Some ACHE Regents Advisory Councils and Healthcare Executive Groups have piloted mentoring programs to benefit their members. Also, mentoring arrangements are frequently arranged through university programs and its alumni, and there are even businesses devoted to bringing the benefits of mentoring to aspiring executives.

Finding a mentor without the help of an organized mentoring program is an option that requires skillful networking. Before you begin, develop a profile of your ideal mentor and use it as a guide in your networking. If you feel reluctant about requesting mentoring help, remember that most executives are flattered to be chosen as a mentor. But be certain you have done your homework so that you can be sure that the match is genuinely valuable for both of you.

If a mentoring relationship is to succeed, it is essential to specify in advance what is expected from you and your mentor and what you hope to gain from the partnership. Begin by defining your career goals. For example, your goal may be to learn what it takes to succeed and advance in a field different than your current field. Helping you fulfill those goals must be within your mentor’s capabilities.

Structuring a relationship

You can begin to build a relationship with your mentor by sharing some personal information with him or her. Consider including information about growing up, your education, your favorite pastimes, and what is really important in your life. Acknowledge any differences between you and your mentor and how they may have an impact on your relationship. You’ll benefit most from a mentor who is different enough to give you a new point of view but similar enough to have shared the experiences you are going through now.

Clarifying your role and that of the mentor is key to a successful mentor/protégé relationship. As a protégé, you should to take the initiative in establishing the relationship, setting up appointments with your mentor, and developing agendas for those appointments.

Other items to discuss with your mentor include the need for confidentiality, the length of meetings, and the best way to communicate—by telephone, e-mail, face-to-face meetings, or a combination of the three.

Assessing the relationship

To ensure that you are getting the most out of your mentoring arrangement, it is important to periodically gauge the relationship. In your first meeting, discuss the expected gains on both sides of the partnership, then agree on the criteria and a schedule for assessing the relationship’s effectiveness. During this time, you may want to decide how long the relationship will last. You may decide later that you have outgrown your mentor. Perhaps you have gained all you could from the relationship, or your goals have changed and you and your mentor are no longer a good match. At this point, you will need to discuss with your mentor whether to continue the relationship.

Finally, respect the process to which you have agreed. Most important will be committing to regular meetings and avoiding postponements. Continuity of contact is crucial—better to abbreviate a meeting than miss it altogether. Consider dedicating the last few minutes of your meetings to evaluating how well expectations are being met.

Whether you are involved with an organized mentoring program or have found a mentor on your own, establishing a mentor/protégé relationship based on honesty and commitment is key to enhancing your performance and helping you become more successful in your career.